The Indian Air Force on Wednesday asked the Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to submit a detailed proposal on the manufacturing of 83 advanced version of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft at a cost of nearly Rs 60,000 crore.
The decision sets in motion a process to acquire more of the indigenous fighter jets to make up for the IAF's depleting squadron strength.
"IAF on Wednesday issued the Request for Proposal to the HAL for 83 more Tejas Mark-1A," said an official. HAL is to respond by March 2018, sources said.
IAF ordered 40 Tejas LCA in its basic configuration- called Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) - from the HAL, which already delivered five of them. The balance is expected to be handed over to the IAF by 200-21.
LCA received the IOC from the regulator in December 2013. However, it is still far away from obtaining the Final Operational Clearance, which has now been rescheduled to 2018 end.
The official letter comes more than a year after the Defence Acquisition Council, headed by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, approved the procurement of 83 Tejas in Mark-1 configuration.
The Mark-1 version would have 43 additional upgrades as against the IOC version.
From 2019 onward, HAL would augment the LCA production capacity by utilising the hangers that were used to manufacture the Hawk advanced jet trainers, sources said.
The LCA Mark-1A will have new generation Active Electronically Scanned Array radar with simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground capability, missile warning system, an integrated advanced electronic warfare Suite; advanced versions of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons and maintainability improvements.
The FOC version would be superior as the aircraft in the FOC configuration would carry Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, improved and better stand-off weapons and air to air refuelling capability.
In April 2015, a Comptroller and Auditor General report flagged 53 deficiencies in the IOC configuration of Tejas limiting its operational efficiency and survivability. The IOC version was approved with those 53 waivers.
Recently IAF made a presentation to the government citing several technical reasons why Tejas can not yet fulfil the force's requirement.