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Indian Air Force (IAF) is gearing up to deploy its first squadron of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mark 1A fighter jets at the Nal air base in Bikaner, Rajasthan, strategically located near the Pakistan border next year.

This deployment marks a significant milestone in the IAF’s modernization efforts and strengthens its combat capabilities. also has been told that Additionally, the older Tejas Mk1 fighter jets are planned to be relocated to forward airbases, likely in Gujarat, to bolster defence preparedness in the western sector.

The IAF currently operates two squadrons of Tejas Mk1 jets equipped with older configurations. However, a comprehensive upgrade program is planned for 2026 that includes a complete overhaul of the aircraft’s avionics systems. This upgrade will bring the older Mk1s closer in capability to the newer Mark 1A variant.

At the heart of the upgrade program lies the adoption of the advanced ELM-2052 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Fire Control Radar. This radar, already in use on the Mark 1A jets, will replace the older ELM-2032 radar currently equipped on the Mk1s, significantly enhancing their situational awareness and targeting capabilities. The Mission Computer, initially developed for the Tejas Mk2 program, will also be incorporated to support the upgraded avionics systems.

While a complete overhaul of the Mk1s to bring them to the same standard as the Mark 1A jets is not deemed feasible due to cost limitations, HAL plans to implement other minor upgrades over time. These upgrades will be prioritized as production of the Mark 1A jets gains momentum post-2026.

The deployment of the Tejas Mk1A and the upgrade of the Mk1 variants represent a significant boost to India’s air defence capabilities. The Tejas is a versatile and capable fighter jet, and its deployment near the Pakistani border will serve as a potent deterrent against potential threats. Furthermore, the upgrades to existing Mk1s will ensure that these jets remain relevant and effective for years to come.

The planned upgrades include:

  • Avionics modernization: Replacing the older ELM-2032 Multimode Airborne Fire Control Radar with the more advanced ELM-2052 AESA radar, currently used on the Tejas Mk1A. This upgrade will significantly improve situational awareness and targeting capabilities.
  • Mission computer upgrade: The Mk1 aircraft will adopt the same mission computer initially developed for the Tejas Mk2 program. This upgrade will enhance processing power and support the integration of advanced avionics systems.

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