The first version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS MK-2 is expected to be ready for serial production by 2027. The TEJAS MK-2 will be powered by the GE-F414 engine, which will be produced in India under a technology transfer deal.
The TEJAS MK-2 is a 17.5-ton single-engine aircraft developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. The program aims to complete development by 2027, but recent developments indicate a pushback in the first aircraft rollout. The program is now aiming for a first rollout in late 2026 or early 2027.
The TEJAS MK-1A, which was cleared for procurement by the Centre in 2021, will add the much-needed numbers to the fighter jet strength of the Air Force and is much more capable than the earlier version, as it is equipped with new age radars, electronic warfare systems and mid-air refuelling features.
According to officials familiar with the development said that the broad plan is to complete all deliveries of the MK-1A at the shortest possible time to ensure that production capacity is available for the next version — the TEJAS MK-2. This version will be powered by more capable engines — the GE 414 — which will also be produced in India under a technology transfer deal ,the report further added.
With the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) sanctioning the development of Light Combat Aircraft TEJAS MK-2, a bigger and more capable fighter than the present one, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is setting a target of 2027 to complete the flight testing, according to Defence officials.
“The CCS sanctioned the project early this week at a total development cost of ₹9,000 crore including the ₹2,500 crore that has already been spent. The roll out of TEJAS MK-2 is planned by 2024 and the target is to complete flight testing by 2027,” one official said. Indian Air Force (IAF) has given commitment to procure six squadrons of TEJAS MK-2, another official said.
The proposal on the indigenous fifth generation fighter, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), is currently with the CCS and the approval is expected very soon, officials stated.
The TEJAS MK-2 will be a heavier and much more capable aircraft than the current TEJAS variants and the TEJAS MK-1A that is scheduled to be delivered to the IAF by early 2024, 83 of which have been contracted under a ₹48,000 crore deal with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). As per schedule, HAL is expected to deliver first three MK-1A aircraft in 2024 and 16 aircraft per year for subsequent five years.
The MK-2 features enhanced range and endurance, including an Onboard Oxygen Generation System, which is being integrated for the first time, and the ability to carry heavy stand-off weapons of the class of Scalp, Crystal Maze and Spice-2000. The MK-2 is 1350 mm longer, featuring canards and can carry a payload of 6,500 kg compared with the 3,500 kg the TEJAS can carry.
The MK-2 will be powered by the General Electric GE-414 engine, which will also power the AMCA. A GE-414 produces 98kN thrust compared to 84kN thrust of the GE-F404 engine powers the TEJAS MK-1 and MK-1A.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has one squadron of TEJAS in Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and one squadron in the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configuration. Induction of all IOC standard aircraft is complete, while induction of FOC standard is nearing completion. Manufacturing of the LCA trainer is also underway with deliveries expected to begin this year.
The IAF had earlier placed orders for 20 IOC standard aircraft and 20 FOC standard aircraft, including eight twin seater trainers. Till date, 31 TEJAS — IOC and FOC combined — have been produced and 26 have been delivered, and few aircraft in the process of being delivered to the customer, HAL sources said.
HAL has already set-up a second assembly line to ramp up production from eight aircraft per year to 16 aircraft per year. The order for 83 TEJAS MK-1A is expected to be completed by 2028-29.