IAF going to replace Vintage MiG-21s with LCA Tejas Mk1A at NAL Air Base near Pakistan

India Defense

IAF going to replace Vintage MiG-21s with LCA Tejas Mk1A at NAL Air Base near Pakistan

Recent reports indicate that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is on the verge of commissioning its inaugural squadron of the indigenously developed TEJAS MK-1A fighter aircraft at the Nal air base in Rajasthan Bikaner district, situated near the Pakistan border. These advanced TEJAS MK-1A jets are set to outperform their predecessors, the TEJAS MK-1 fighters, boasting indigenous Gallium Nitride (GaN) radars and avionics.

The first batch of 21 MK-1A aircraft will initially be equipped with Israel Elta ELM 2052 radar as a temporary measure. Subsequently, the remaining aircraft destined for the Indian Air Force will be fitted with the indigenous Uttam Radar, incorporating GaN technology, according to reliable sources.

Deployment and Integration

Defence sources reveal that the initial TEJAS MK-1A squadron is slated for deployment at the Nal air base in Rajasthan. Plans include integrating this squadron into one of the two existing MiG-21 Bison squadrons currently stationed at the base. Anticipated by February-March, the first TEJAS MK-1A aircraft deliveries to the Indian Air Force will be facilitated by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Production and Induction Plans

The production of the TEJAS MK-1A fleet is gaining momentum, with 83 aircraft currently in production and an additional 97 receiving clearance from the central government. The IAF aims to induct a total of 220 TEJAS MK-1 and TEJAS MK-1A aircraft over the next 8-10 years. HAL is working towards increasing the production rate to 24 aircraft annually by 2025, a crucial step in addressing the declining squadron strength of the IAF.

Role of TEJAS MK-1A Jets in IAF and Future Plans

The TEJAS MK-1A jets are strategically positioned to replace aging MiG series aircraft, including MiG-21s, MiG-23s, and MiG-27s. While the MiG-23 and MiG-27 have been phased out, two squadrons of vintage MiG-21s are still operational and earmarked for imminent replacement.

Looking ahead, the Indian Air Force envisions deploying indigenous fighters to replace Mirage-2000 and Jaguar aircraft. The IAF long-term plan involves having 10 squadrons of TEJAS MK-1 and MK-1A, 12-13 squadrons of TEJAS MK-2, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, and 13 squadrons of the Russian-origin Su-30MKI by the end of the next decade.

Commitment to "Made in India"

Underscoring its commitment to "Made in India" aircraft, the IAF aims to acquire approximately 120 Multirole Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) domestically, comparable to the capabilities provided by the two Rafale fighter squadrons. This move reinforces the country defense capabilities against threats from various fronts.

The indigenous fighter aircraft project received a "historic" endorsement when Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a sortie in the TEJAS trainer aircraft earlier this year, signaling strong government support for the program. Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and the IAF top brass continue to champion indigenous projects, achieving significant milestones in enhancing the nation defense capabilities.

Diversified Defense Plans and Future Acquisitions

Beyond fighter jets, the IAF is expanding its plans to enhance Su-30MKI fighters with "state-of-the-art" indigenous avionics and weaponry. The procurement of 156 Light Combat Helicopters is underway, with 90 designated for the Indian Army and 66 for the IAF.

In its recent meeting, the Defence Acquisition Council cleared three major indigenous projects for the Indian Air Force, collectively valued at over Rs 1.74 lakh crore. Spearheaded by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in collaboration with private sector firms, these projects signify a significant leap towards strengthening the country defense capabilities.

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