New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said full-scale production of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas will begin by next year and that other countries have shown interest in the plane.
"As per my primary report, it is appreciated by other countries who are interested. By next year, we are starting full-scale production," he told reporters at the NCC Republic Day camp.
Tejas, which had been in the making for over 3 decades, is taking part in the ongoing Bahrain International Airshow as the country hopes to explore potential export opportunities.
It is a single-engine, light-weight, highly agile, multi-role supersonic fighter plane. Tejas is a 4.5 generation aircraft with supersonic capability at all altitudes.
Indian Air Force plans to acquire 120 Tejas aircraft, with 100 of them having some major modifications. It wants better radar, new electronic warfare suit, refueling capacity and improved missiles.
The training of IAF pilots on LCA has already commenced.
Though DRDO has developed a naval version of Tejas, the navy is seeking a more powerful engine, besides other changes.
As per the production plan, six aircraft will be made this year (2015-16) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will subsequently scale it up to eight and 16 aircraft per year.
It is estimated that 20 aircraft will be built by 2017- 2018, to make the first squadron of the aircraft.
The LCA programme was initiated in 1983 to replace the ageing MiG-21s planes in IAF's combat fleet but has missed several deadlines due to various reasons.
As India aims to market Tejas, it will face competition from Pakistan's JF 17, built in collaboration with China.
The aircraft has already been placed in the open market and it was speculated that one of the Asian countries had evinced interest in the aircraft.
However, Sri Lanka had recently denied reports that it had evinced interest in the Pakistani plane.