Six LCA Squadrons by 2022
By SP's Special Correspondent
Photo Credit : ADA
May 22, 2012 : Has the Ministry of Defence (MoD) put a cap on the induction of LCA Tejas? In a surprise assertion, it has been revealed that the Indian forces will induct six squadrons of the indigenous LCA Tejas by 2022—or the end of the Thirteenth Plan period. Revealing this in Parliament, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said, "There has been delay in the manufacturing of indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas. This is a design and development project and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is the nodal organisation for the development of light combat aircraft, Tejas. The Initial Operational Clearance-1 (IOC-1) for the Tejas has been achieved on January 10, 2011. Currerntly, LCA development activities leading to final operational clearance are in progress. The deliveries of aircraft are scheduled in the Twelfth Plan period. It is planned to induct six LCA squadrons by the end of Thirteenth Plan."
Six squadrons is a much lower figure than the programme originally envisaged, since it was intended as a MiG-21 replacement. While official estimates do not exist, HAL sources say the IAF and Navy were expected to order a total of at least 400 aircraft for the project to be anywhere close to viable. The Air Force currently has 48 LCAs on order—eight limited series production (LSP) aircraft and 40 LCA Mk.1. In January last year, the IAF asserted that it had projected a need for 83 LCA Mk.2 aircraft, powered by the more powerful GE F414 turbofan engine. This adds up to a total of 131 aircraft for the IAF. The Navy recently received clearance for the induction of nine LCA Navy Mk.1 aircraft, but is expected to order at least 30 of the Mk.2 variant. This still adds up to only 171 aircraft from the indigenous programme.