New Delhi, Mar 15: The Indian Air Force (IAF) had earlier maintained that Tejas fighters are not combat-ready even after three decades of development given its limited range. However, despite being critical of the fighter jets, the IAF has now agreed to induct 324 indigenous Tejas fighters to support its depleting number of squadron strength.Also Read - BREAKING: Drone Spotted Near IAF Station in Jammu Again
For now, the Indian Air Force has just committed to 123 Tejas fighter jets at the cost of Rs 75,000 crore. It, however, demands that the Tejas Mark II jets be entirely “new fighters” with “better avionics, radars, enhanced weapons carrying capacity and powerful engines”. (Also Read: IAF Orders 83 Tejas MK 1A Fighters From HAL) Also Read - Windows Rattled: Residents Report Another 'Boom-like' Explosion In Bengaluru, IAF Clarifies
“The Tejas Mark-II is still on the drawing board. But if DRDO, Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd deliver the required Mark-II fighter, IAF has agreed to have a total of 18 Tejas squadrons,” a source told Times of India. Also Read - Jammu Drone Attack: Mobile Activities Being Traced as NIA Begins Probe
The Indian Air Force has already issued the request for proposal (RFP) to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the acquisition of 83 fighters which are scheduled to join the IAF from 2019-20 after completion of Final Operational Clearance (FOC) contract for 20 Tejas jests. (Also Read: Tejas May Not be The Best But It’s More Superior Than JF-17- Jointly Developed by Pak, China)
The Tejas fighters currently have a tolerance of just an hour. It has action radius of only 350-400 kilometres, and weapon-carrying capacity of 3-tonne. While the other single-engine fighters such as Swedish Gripen-E have triple the endurance and double the weapon-carrying capacity.
Being critical of the fighter jets, the IAF had said, “Tejas, which has just about 50% of the capabilities of an F-16 or Gripen in terms of endurance, payload etc, will have to fly under the protection of other fighters during conflicts.”
In July 2017, the IAF inducted the first squadron of home-grown Tejas with two fighter planes joining the force. The squadron named – Flying Daggers 45 – is expected to have its full strength by 2018-2020. However, the IAF was not eager to expand its Tejas unit.