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Indian Air Force to receive First Batch of 16 Tejas Mark 1A Light Combat Aircraft.

The first batch of 16 Tejas Mark 1A fighter aircraft will enter service with the Indian Air Force (IAF) this year, marking an important step in strengthening India's air defense capabilities.

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Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas Mark 1A Light Combat Aircraft(Picture source: Wikimedia)

In February 2021, the IAF placed a massive order worth 6.6 billion USD (48,000 crore rupees) for 83 Tejas Mark-1A light combat aircraft (LCA) with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The aerospace company based in Bengaluru got to work, and the first Tejas Mark 1A fighter successfully completed its test flight in March this year.

HAL's Chairman and Managing Director, CB Ananthakrishnan, announced that the first delivery would be made "in the next few months." He emphasized that the construction of the aircraft has begun and that HAL is committed to delivering 16 Tejas Mark 1A before March 31, 2025. The production of 180 Tejas Mark 1A and their successive variants will generate the bulk of HAL’s revenue for the foreseeable future.

HAL has almost completed the delivery of its first two IAF orders for 40 Tejas Mark 1 fighters. Of the nine Mark 1s remaining to be delivered this year, five twin-seat trainers have already been delivered, and the remaining four will follow soon, Ananthakrishnan specified.

Meanwhile, HAL is finalizing the integration of five major upgrades to the Tejas Mark 1, which will earn it the designation of Mark 1A. Among these upgrades are an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar replacing the previous manually scanned array radar, and a new electronic warfare (EW) system integrating protection jammers and mission computers.

These new systems are complemented by next-generation air-to-air missiles, notably the indigenous Astra missile and the advanced short-range air-to-air missile (ASRAAM) provided by MBDA. Additionally, the integration of air-to-air refueling will significantly extend the Mark 1A's range.

"The air-to-air refueling probes have been installed. Final testing needs to be completed and demonstrated. This is being done for the entire fleet of Tejas fighters as part of the contract for the second batch of 20 fighters," explained Ananthakrishnan.

The Tejas cockpit has also been adapted to meet anthropometric requirements, making it compatible with 90% of IAF pilots. "We have fully met the anthropometric requirements for the LCA, which requires the cockpit to be suitable for pilots from the 5th to the 95th percentile," said Ananthakrishnan.

However, despite all these modifications, the Tejas Mark 1A will still require further adjustments and tests before becoming fully operational. "Some integrations involving the fighter’s armament will be required, such as the firing of twin ASRAAM missiles. We have discussed the minimum deliverable configuration with the IAF so that they can start flying and suggest improvements and modifications," he added.

Currently, the two Tejas Mark 1 squadrons in service are based in Sulur, near Coimbatore in southern India. As the IAF commissions more squadrons of Tejas fighters, particularly the more capable Tejas Mark 1A and Mark 2, it is likely they will be deployed to the Chinese and Pakistani borders, in response to evolving military doctrines and strategies.

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