IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Raha told media early this month that the IAF would be ordering 120 aircraft of which 20 would be of the IOC (Initial Operational Clearance) standard and the rest incorporating improvements. However this model will not have the more powerful GE F-414 engine that will only power the LCA Mk2 and which is also a crucial requirement for the navy.
We want Tejas – just Tejas. No Mk1, Mk2. Just the aircraft which they have prepared now – that we’ll take with little improvements which they themselves have recommended in terms of the radar, in terms of EW, in terms of flight refueling and in terms of better missiles. So these four things – it is doable and they have agreed to do that. So as I said we’ll induct the Tejas in its present shape in large numbers and we’ll upgrade them as and when these technologies fructify.
Mk1, Mk2, 1A – lot of things have been discussed but the latest input that we have worked out in terms of – with the stakeholders – that we’ll have Tejas. We’ll not call it Mk1A, B, C or 2 – we’ll have Tejas in the current capability that we have and they have given us a plan – the ADA and the HAL has given us a plan to incorporate four major characteristics. So that – as I said earlier – that this will be integrated into the new aircraft as an upgrade. The aircraft which is currently existing. So it is not Mk2 or Mk3. It is just Tejas upgrade. Whatever you call it, it will be Tejas with the same capacity and capability with improvements which will be in the form of upgrade.
And when Ajay Banerjee of The Tribune asked: So you are not interested in the Mk2, is it?
As of now we are not.
Naval sources told StratPost that with the IAF interest in the development of the Mk2 now appearing uncertain, the navy would have to undertake a process to determine if they can continue to fund development of the model on their own, keeping in mind ‘already sunk costs’, their requirement number and the expectation that the model would not be ready before 2024 as well as the imperative of indigenization.
Sources also told StratPost it would be premature to wonder about a replacement at this point but admitted that additional MiG-29K aircraft would be the most ‘obvious solution’, while stressing that such a decision would also have to be tempered by the design requirements of IAC-1 (Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-1) and especially IAC-2, which is still on the drawing board.
The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have so far put together two prototypes of the naval variant, which however, is not of the Mk2 standard.
The navy is estimated to have a requirement for around 40-60 LCA Mk2 and has placed an initial order for six aircraft. India has spent over INR 17,269 crore on the LCA program development, so far, which was first initiated in 1983.