Faced with depleting strength of its fighter squadron, the Indian Air Force on Wednesday issued the request for proposal (RFP) to state-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the procurement of 83 Tejas light combat aircraft at a cost of over Rs 50,000 crore.
The IAF had earlier placed an order with the HAL for 40 Tejas aircraft. The RFP for 83 Tejas light combat aircraft has been issued today, setting the ball rolling for finalising the contract for the mega-deal, official sources said.
The Defence Acquisition Council, the defence ministry's highest decision making body on procurement, had in November last year approved the purchase of 83 Tejas Mark 1 A by IAF at a cost of Rs 50,025 crore.
The sources said the final deal for the procurement is likely to be inked within the next five months. They said out of the 83 LCA, 10 will be used for training purposes.
According to official figures, 14 squadrons of the MiG 21, MiG 27 and MiG 29 are due for retirement in the next 10 years which will bring down the fighter squadron strength to 19 by 2027 from the current 33.
The strength may be further reduced to 16 by 2032. In an interview with PTI, HAL Chairman and Managing Director T Suvarna Raju had said most of the 42 modifications in Tejas sought by the IAF, including weaponisation of the aircraft, had been carried out.
"Tejas is a four-and-half generation world class fighter jet. There is no doubt about it. We can improve its various parameters. We are proud of Tejas. Every Indian will be proud of it. We will ensure enhancement in its quality and performance," Raju had said.
There have been views in the IAF that the Tejas aircraft was not enough to maintain its combat readiness and it needed to quickly procure a fleet of foreign single engine fighters to deal with any possible security challenges faced by the country in the backdrop of the dwindling size of its fighter fleet.
The IAF believes that it has to have a wide mix of aircraft to maintain an operational edge over its adversaries.
The HAL CMD had said that the four-and-half generation Tejas would be able to deliver what is expected of it. The lifespan of the jet would be a minimum of 30 years just like any other frontline combat aircraft, he had said.
The combat jets are classified under various generations depending on their avionics, capability and weapons systems.
The current fleet of fighter jets with the IAF range from three-and-half generation to the fourth generation.