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NEW DELHI: The government has paved the way for the manufacture of 83 indigenous Tejas Mk-1A Light Combat aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in a deal which is likely to be worth close to Rs. 60,000 crores.

This would be among the largest ever deals the government has sanctioned for the domestic arms sector and is a huge boost for the government’s ‘Make in India’ defence manufacturing programme. It is also the biggest endorsement yet for the Tejas fighter which has been in the process of development for more than three decades and entered Squadron Service with the Indian Air Force just last year. With no other firm competing for this contract, the Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by the Defence Ministry will almost certainly translate into a tender for the supersonic fighter jet.

At the moment, the first Tejas squadron of the Indian Air Force is operating five Tejas jets in what is known as the Initial Operating Capability or IOC configuration. This variant does not have the full scale capabilities the Air Force expects. Another 15 jets in this configuration are presently on the assembly line.

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A further 20 jets in Final Operating Configuration or FOC will be manufactured once they fighter completes a series of protracted trials that are presently being undertaken. Though this configuration is acceptable to the Indian Air Force, it still falls short in key technology and capability areas which the Mk-1A variant will overcome.

The Mk-1A variant of the fighter the Air Force is looking to acquire incorporates three specific advancements over the jet presently being operated – The MK1-A will operate a state of the art AESA or Active Electronically Scanned Phased Array radar.

This radar can beam radio waves electronically over a large area ahead of the jet to detect several targets on the ground or in the air simultaneously.
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