A more potent version of the indigenous Tejas multi-role combat jet featuring a much powerful engine, greater load-carrying capability and next-generation electronic warfare system is expected to be rolled out next year and its first high-speed trials will start in 2023, according to Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd R Madhavan.
He said the structural package and related work on the Tejas Mark II, which will have an array of superior avionics, was progressing well, and the production of the high-performance jet is likely to start around 2025.
Madhavan said the upgraded version will have a bigger fuselage, longer range, better maintainability, greater load-carrying capability, much stronger engine power and superior net-centric warfare systems.
With an increase in range and payload capability, Madhavan said the new variant will be much superior to the Tejas Mark-IA, 73 of which are being procured by the Indian Air Force from the HAL under a Rs 48,000-crore deal that was approved by the government on January 13.
"Tejas Mark II is likely to roll out by August-September of 2022. After that, the first flight will take some time. The first high-speed trial of the jet will start in 2023 and we expect the production to start somewhere around 2025," Madhavan told PTI.
Asked about the weapon package for Tejas Mark II, the chief of the state-run aerospace giant did not give a direct reply and said it will be decided at a later stage depending on the requirement and changing dynamics.
Tejas is a single-engine and highly agile multi-role supersonic fighter capable of operating in high-threat air environments. The aircraft, manufactured by the HAL, is a potent platform for air combat and offensive air support with reconnaissance and anti-ship operations as its secondary roles.
The Tejas Mk-IA will be equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar, beyond visual range missile, electronic warfare suite and air-to-air refuelling system.
On the next generation advanced multi-role combat aircraft (AMCA) project, the HAL chairman said the aim is to implement the project under the framework of a special purpose vehicle (SPV), also involving private sector players.
India is working on the fifth-generation medium weight deep penetration fighter jet and the project is estimated to cost around USD 5 billion.
Madhavan said the aircraft prototype is likely to be ready by 2026 and its production could start by 2030. He added that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working on the project timeline.
"It is still in the initial design stage. We are trying to get into an SPV route where HAL and DRDO will be partners and we will try to bring in some private players, at least two. We want them (private players) to have a slight majority (stake) so that it does not become a government entity," he said.
Madhavan said the thinking has been that the private players could hold 50.5 percent stakes in the venture so that it is deemed as private though there will be provisions for audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
"What we are planning to do is to get the prototypes made by the HAL without going into any SPV route. Once we do that, then we will ask them (private players) to join hands. They will have to put in at least Rs 2,500 crore. We will put in Rs 2,500 crore as initial investment," he said.
Madhavan suggested that the implementation of the project under the SPV route will cut procedural delays.
The HAL chairman and managing director said the Rs 48,000-crore Tejas project will significantly boost the aerospace sector in India and it will have ripple effects on the implementation of various ambitious programmes.
Madhavan said that Tejas Mark IA jet has superior performance levels compared to China's JF-17 combat aircraft as it has better engine, radar system, electronic warfare suit besides having an edge in the overall technology.
He said production of Tejas Mark IA will continue till 2028, while manufacturing of Tejas Mark II will continue for 6-8 years after its production starts in 2025.