SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
A great deal of hue and cry was made when new Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari stopped talking about the Tejas MkII jet in this recent media interaction and it now seems it was not a simple act of omission but deliberate. Tejas MkII cleared critical design review (CDR) that allows HAL to start fabrication of the first aircraft that HAL Chief had said will be ready by end of 2022 and have its first flight by end of 2023. The latest Time of India report confirms that debate has started within IAF on how to go about in the development of future locally made fighter jets and whether India should leapfrog from the Tejas Mark-1A directly to the AMCA.
IAF earlier in February at Aero India 2021 had placed orders for 83 Tejas MK1A and transition directly to AMCA will mean a critical gap in combat squadron fleet will continue if the MkII program is not cleared for production for which IAF is deliberating if an enhanced variant of the Tejas MK1A should be considered that possibly reduce the cost of setting up of a new production line but can accommodate most of the technologies that were developed for the MkII program as an improved variant.
Tejas MkII will be ready to enter production only in 2029 if it can carry out its first flight in 2023 that also will require additional developmental funds to carry out rigorous testing and a new production line that could require considerable upgrades to the upcoming production facilities including training and hiring of new manpower.
MkII program might be in trouble if AMCA Mk1 Program takes off in time as scheduled and enters production around or before 2030 as most of the technologies for the program are already under development and influx of fresh funds will also mean it can reach their much faster. MkII program that has received funds of up to 800 crores won’t be enough to execute the whole program and it’s estimated it will require around 8000-10000 crores more for the project to take over after the first few prototypes rollout.
ADA has estimated 15000 crores funds that will be required for the development of the AMCA Program and another 13000 crores funds will be required for the developmental of deck-based Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) Program, Plus additional funds that will be required to execute MkII program that could mean HAL will be overwhelmed at job at hand while it tries to execute three fighter jet program at the same time that could lead to further delays.