NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force has decided to induct 324 of the indigenous Tejas jets. IAF has committed” to 123 Tejas jets at present, which will come at a cost of over Rs 75,000 crore if both developmental and production costs are taken into account.
But it wants the next 201 Tejas Mark-II jets to be “entirely new fighters” with much better avionics and radars, enhanced fuel and weapons carrying capacity, and more powerful engines, say top sources.
The existing single-engine Tejas has limited “endurance” of just an hour, with a “radius of action” of only 350-400-km, and weapon-carrying capacity of 3-tonne. Other single-engine fighters like Swedish Gripen-E and American F-16 have roughly double the weapon-carrying capacity and triple the endurance.
But IAF, down to just 31 fighter squadrons (18 jets in each) when at least 42 are required to tackle the “collusive threat” from China and Pakistan, realises inducting expensive foreign fighters “in large numbers” is simply not an option.
The 36 Rafale jets, ordered from France in September 2016, for instance, have cost India Rs 59,000 crore. The total cost, of course, includes a decidedly deadly weapons package, all spares and costs for 75% fleet availability and “performance-based logistics support” for five years.