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IAF may order more of LCA Mk-1A fighters

By, New Delhi
Aug 25, 2023 12:39 AM IST

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is exploring the possibility of ordering more variants of the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Mk-1A to strengthen its combat potential.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is exploring the possibility of ordering more variants of the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Mk-1A to strengthen its combat potential, having already signed a 48,000-crore contract for 83 such fighter jets two years ago, officials aware of the matter said on Thursday.

IAF raised its first LCA squadron in July 2016.
IAF raised its first LCA squadron in July 2016.

A proposal to place a follow-on order for 90 to 100 more LCA Mk-1 fighter jets is on the drawing board, the officials said, asking not to be named. If the order materialises, it will provide a big boost to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) campaign.

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The contract for the 83 Mk-1A jets signed in February 2021 took the total number of LCA variants ordered to 123. The 40 LCA Mk-1s already ordered by IAF are in the initial operational clearance (IOC) and the more advanced final operational clearance (FOC) configurations. The LCA Mk-1A will come with a raft of additional improvements over the existing variants, making it the most advanced LCA variant so far.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari on Tuesday reviewed the LCA programme, ahead of the delivery of the Mk-1A variant early next year. During the review, he described LCA as the flag-bearer of the IAF’s efforts towards indigenisation of its aircraft fleet. The first Mk-1A aircraft will be delivered in February 2024, with the rest slated to join the IAF’s combat fleet by 2029. The LCA Mk-1A aircraft is expected to be deployed at forward bases.

The Mk-1A will come with digital radar warning receivers, external self-protection jammer pods, superior radar, advanced beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles and significantly improved maintainability. The fighter’s indigenous content is expected to be more than 60%, compared to 50% in the existing variants.

Of the earlier 40 LCA Mk1 planes, 32 aircraft have been delivered to the air force, and the remaining eight twin-seater trainers will be delivered in the coming months. IAF raised its first LCA squadron with two aircraft in July 2016 even though the project was sanctioned in 1983 as a replacement for the Soviet-origin MiG-21 fleet.

Last year, the government gave its nod for developing the next generation variant of the aircraft – the LCA Mk-2, and sanctioned 10,000 crore for the project. The Mk-2 fighter will be the most advanced LCA variant to be designed and developed indigenously. It will be equipped with a more powerful GE-414 engine, superior radar, better avionics and electronics, and will be capable of carrying a higher weapons payload. The IAF could order more than 100 LCA-Mk-2 aircraft, the officials said.

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