The Indian Air Force is mulling raising the first squadron of the indigenous LCA Mark1A fighter aircraft squadron at the Nal air base in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district near the Pakistan front. The aircraft, which would be much more advanced than the existing LCA Mark1 Tejas fighters, are being equipped with the latest indigenous radars and avionics.
"The first squadron of the LCA Mark1A fighters is planned to be based out of the Nal air base in Rajasthan and would be inducted in one of the two MiG-21 Bison squadrons deployed presently there," defence sources said.
The first LCA Mark1A aircraft is expected to be received by the IAF by February-March timeframe, manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, they added.
83 aircraft are already under production and 97 more have been cleared by the Centre. The LCA Mark1A fighter jets are now planned to be produced in large numbers.
A total of 220 LCA Mark 1 and LCA Mark1A aircraft are planned to be inducted into service in the next 8-10 years, besides the 40 LCA Mark-1 Tejas fighters.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has also increased the rate of production of fighter aircraft and is expected to reach the 24 aircraft per year mark by 2025.
The IAF is looking to replace the MiG series aircraft that have been in its inventory with the LCA variants.
The LCA Mark1A aircraft would be the replacements for its MiG-21s, MiG-23s and the MiG-27s. While the MIG-23 and MiG-27 have already been phased out by the force, two squadrons of the vintage MiG-21 are still in service and will be phased out soon.
The Indian Air Force is expected to use indigenous fighters to replace the Mirage-2000 and Jaguar aircraft in future.
As per the plans, defence sources said that the 10 squadrons of the LCA Mark 1 and Mark 1A, 12-13 squadrons of the LCA Mark-2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft with the 13 squadrons of the Russian origin Su-30MKI will make up for the bulk of the Indian Air Force by the end of next decade.
The IAF is also clear about one thing that it will now have only 'Made in India' fighter aircraft and would require around 120 Multirole Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) indigenously similar to the capability provided by the two squadrons of Rafale fighters to have the desired capability and capability to tackle the threats from both the fronts.
The Indian indigenous fighter aircraft project received a strong boost when Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a sortie in the LCA trainer aircraft which was provided to the Indian Air Force only in early October this year.
The top Indian Air Force brass led by Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari has been fully backing indigenous projects and has achieved major success in this domain.
The Indian Air Force is also working on indigenising the Su-30MKI fighters by equipping them with the latest indigenous avionics and weapon systems.
It is also leading the programme to buy 156 Light Combat Helicopters of which 90 would be taken by the Indian Army and 66 by IAF.
The Defence Acquisition Council meeting cleared three major indigenous projects of the Indian Air Force in its last meeting worth over Rs 1.74 lakh crore. All three projects would be done by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in partnership with private sector firms.
(With ANI inputs)