Deputy Chief of Air Staff Ashutosh Dixit recently embarked on a significant visit to the TEJAS MK-1 Twin Seater and Mk IA production facilities in Bengaluru, marking a pivotal moment in India’s quest for self-reliance in defense. During his visit, Dixit engaged with TEJAS and Aircraft Division officers, as well as technicians on the factory floor, signaling the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) unwavering commitment to bolstering its indigenous capabilities. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) officials noted that “Atmanirbharta (self-reliance) in defense is reflected with the strong push the TEJAS MK-1A has received.”
The IAF’s ambitious plan is to acquire approximately 100 TEJAS MK-1A fighter jets, a procurement estimated at over eight billion dollars, aimed at phasing out the aging MiG-21 squadrons currently in service. HAL, in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence, anticipates a rapid increase in the deployment of TEJAS along the frontline airbases shortly after the induction of the MK-1A variant, expected in early 2024.
The IAF’s commitment to TEJAS is further underscored by its decision to procure an additional 100 of these highly capable MK-1A fighter jets from HAL. Over the next 15 years, the IAF envisions operating a formidable fleet consisting of 40 TEJAS MK-1, over 180 TEJAS MK-1A, and a minimum of 120 TEJAS MK-2 aircraft. This cumulative count of 340 fighter jets is set to make TEJAS the second-largest fleet ever operated by the IAF, second only to the Bisons. The MK-1A variant, boasting enhanced avionics and radar systems, with over 65% indigenous components, is slated to commence deliveries by February 2024, building upon the contracts secured for 83 MK-1A aircraft in 2021.
During a comprehensive review, Air Chief VR Chaudhari lauded TEJAS as a ‘flag bearer’ of indigenization, emphasizing the collaborative efforts that have propelled the program. HAL has consistently delivered all current fighter variants, and it remains committed to ensuring timely delivery of the contracted twin-seater MK-1 aircraft. The successful launch of the ASTRA indigenous Beyond Visual Range missile stands as a remarkable achievement, reducing dependency on imports, as stated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
In addition to his visit to the TEJAS facilities, Deputy Chief Ashutosh Dixit also embarked on a sortie in the HTT-40 Basic Trainer Aircraft. As per the Ministry of Defence, procurement for addressing trainer aircraft shortages is slated to commence in 2025, with an allocated budget of Rs 6828 crore. With over 56% indigenous content in the aircraft, there are plans to increase this percentage to 60% during mass production. This initiative not only addresses the nation’s defense needs but also has the potential to catalyze growth in the Indian aviation industry, creating employment opportunities along the way.