IAF should be given nine squadrons of Tejas MK-2 starting 2026
The TEJAS MK-2 will be a Medium Weight Fighter aircraft powered by GE F414 engines and should be having an indigenous engine for Mk3 version. GE F414 is a fully modular engine of 95KN thrust. During the engine selection for TEJAS MK-2 program, GE has proposed ToT of around 60 per cent in a phased manner for manufacturing GE 414 engines in India. However, India will be having its own indigenous engine for powering the Tejas Mk3, of which IAF should be given another nine Squadron.
Production of TEJAS MK-2 planned to begin in 2026, at the rate of more than 20 aircraft a year and full swing production will have to be increased, so that all 18 squadrons of Mk2 and Mk3 are there by 2035b. The first TEJAS MK-2 deliveries to Indian Air Force should start by 2027.
The advanced version of the country-made fighter aircraft TEJAS that is Mk1A will soon start entering. Though Air Chief Marshal VR Choudhary said that six squadrons of TEJAS MK-2, an advanced version of the Air Force Light variant of Combat Aircraft (LCA), will be built, India needs to have at least 24 Squadrons of these aircrafts by 2o35. By that time 3x squadrons of MiG 29, 6x Squadrons of MiG 21 Bison and the 6x Squadrons of Jaguars, all will have retired.
The Air Force then will have 15x Squadrons of SUkhois, 2x Squadrons of Mirage, say four squadrons of Rafael and hopefully 5 to 6 squadrons of AMCA. We need at least 54 Squadrons for a two front holding war and 63 squadrons for mounting proper offensive on both the fronts.
The contract with GE Aviation is for procurement of 99 fully finished engines along with engine support packages. Additionally, module change workshops and engine test beds will be established at Air Force bases by HAL. HAL has indicated its readiness to set up the MRO facility. However, the contract does not envisage setting up an MRO facility in India. It is understood that IAF is in discussion with GE Aviation for establishing a D-Level maintenance facility.
To ensure self-reliance of the country in the critical engine technology, we need to develop capability for designing own indigenous engine with higher thrust. HAL is working on two aero engine programs currently, which will be suitable for small business jets and ALH class helicopters respectively. However, engine project needs to be taken up as national programs involving all the stakeholders like HAL, DRDO labs, and the ITS.