LCA Tejas far better than China-Pakistan JF-17 fighters, says IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria

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Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria on Thursday said that the latest light combat aircraft Tejas is far better and advanced than the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 fighter jets, adding that it is well equipped to carry out Balakot-type airstrikes.

In an interaction with ANI, the Air Chief said the 83 indigenous fighter jets to be inducted into the force would also be equipped with homegrown weapons such as the Astra beyond visual range air to air missiles and other standoff weapons.

“Indian aircraft Tejas is far better and advanced than the Chinese and Pakistan joint venture JF-17 fighter,” Bhadauria said when asked to compare the Indian fighter with the JF-17.

To a query on whether the Tejas would be able to carry out Balakot-type airstrikes, the Air Chief said: “In terms of strike capability, it will have the capability of a standoff weapon which will be even beyond the capability we used that time.”

Noting the approval of the largest indigenous defence procurement deal to buy 83 LCA Tejas, Air Chief Bhadauria said that the deal is a huge step for IAF capability building, adding that the current strength of the two squadron plan of LCA will now increase to six.

“Order of 83 aircraft is huge. When this kind of order takes shape in the next 8-9 years, the entire ecosystem will get set up. For military aviation, it will be a big step. It will make a big base for fighter aircraft production, maintenance and support,” IAF Chief told ANI.

“It is a huge step for IAF capability building. It is also a big boost to our indigenous industry. It is also a big recognition of our designers. It is a huge step for Indian Air Force and for the country,” he added.

On the possible deployment of the newly procured aircraft, he said, “The 83 aircraft will look after four squadrons. The current strength of the two squadron plan of LCA will now increase to six. Essentially the deployment will be frontline.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed Cabinet Committee approved the largest indigenous defence procurement deal worth about Rs 48,000 crores to buy 83 LCA Tejas Mark1A fighter jets.The deal to be signed in the next few days with HAL would strengthen the Indian Air Force`s fleet of homegrown fighter jet `LCA-Tejas` and overall combat capability.

It is to be noted that the Indian Air Force (IAF) had deployed the home-grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas on the western front along the Pakistan border in view of the tensions with China on the Ladakh front last year.

In view of the Chinese aggression on the borders, the IAF had deployed its assets all along the borders with both China and Pakistan.

The deal would be a major boost for the IAF and help it to arrest the fall in the number of its fighter aircraft squadrons.

Light Combat Aircraft Mk-1A variant is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured state-of-the-art modern 4+ generation fighter aircraft. This aircraft, which is equipped with critical operational capabilities of Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missile, Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite and Air to Air Refuelling (AAR), would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of Indian Air Force.

It is the first “Buy (Indian-Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured)” category procurement of combat aircraft with an indigenous content of 50 per cent which will progressively reach 60 per cent by the end of the programme.

The Cabinet has also approved infrastructure development by IAF under the project to enable it to handle repairs or servicing at their base depot so that the turnaround time would get reduced for mission-critical systems and would lead to the increased availability of aircraft for operational exploitation.This would enable IAF to sustain the fleet more efficiently and effectively due to the availability of repair infrastructure at respective bases.

The indigenous Tejas fighter plane had been praised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech last year.The initial version of LCA has already joined the Air Force. While the first squadron of the planes is of the Initial Operational Clearance version, the second 18 Squadron `Flying Bullets` is of the Final Operational Clearance version and was operationalized by the IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria at the Sulur airbase on May 27 last year.

The deal for the 83 LCA Mark1A aircraft has been made possible by the efforts done by the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar when he got the specifications approved in the Defence Acquisition Council.

(With ANI inputs)

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