New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) is grappling with a shortage of fighter aircraft and to tide over the situation the government had sanctioned Rs 1381.04 crore in March 2017 to ramp up the production of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas from the existing eight jets per year to 16.
According to the Minister of State (Defence) Subhash Bhamre the IAF signed a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for procurement of 20 Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) standard Tejas on March 31, 2006, which were to be completed by December 2011. The second contract between the IAF and HAL was signed on December 23, 2010 under which the delivery of 20 Final Operational Clearance (FOC) Tejas were to be completed by 2016.
Till date (July 30, 2018), the HAL had delivered nine Tejas fighters out of total 20 IOC aircraft (16 fighters and 4 trainers) to IAF. The remaining 11 IOC Tejas (7 fighters and 4 trainers) are still under production at HAL. According to the minister, the IOC Tejas can undertake Air Defence Operations and conventional ground attack with heavy bombs.
The production of 20 FOC Tejas aircraft will be taken up after FOC clearance by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) for which current target is December 2018, Bhamre said in a written reply to Telangana Rashtra Samithi MP Dr. Banda Prakash in the Rajya Sabha on July 30.
The minister also added that to ensure that the production rate of LCA Tejas is increased, major private partners are being involved who will undertake the construction of major modules while HAL will take on the role of lead integrator. The second line for structural and equipping activities at Aircraft Division, HAL will be established and the number of jigs for Front fuselage, Centre fuselage, Rear fuselage and Wings will also be increased.
The process to roll out a Tejas will be streamlined and the manufacturing cycle time reduced through improved supply chain management, learning and augmentation of manpower along with modularization of electrical looms for reduction of cycle time of aircraft looming.
Besides, the 40 aircraft (20 IOC & 20 FOC), Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has already cleared the acquisition of 83 LCA MK1A for IAF at a cost of over Rs 50,000 crore.
Further, in order to bolster the IAF fighter squadron strength, the government has also planned to manufacture fighter aircraft through strategic partnership model.