The third Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Series Production (SP) unit for the Indian Air Force (IAF) is close to induction.
According to the Times of India, Tejas SP3 had successfully undergone low-speed taxi trials last week and high-speed taxi trials are scheduled to take place shortly. Its first flight is expected in a week’s time.
Notes & Comments:
The IAF inducted its first Tejas squadron in July when two units were handed over to the No. 45 Squadron at Yelahanka Air Base. Although inducted, the Tejas will enter full-scale production at HAL’s facilities in 2017 at a rate of at least eight aircraft per year. The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) hopes to see this output increased (to 16+) in subsequent years.
The IAF is expected to induct the Tejas over the long-term to gradually replace its MiG-21bis, which is currently the IAF’s mainstay lightweight point-defence fighter. As the Tejas assumes the MiG-21bis’ defensive role, the IAF will likely hone the Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000, MiG-29, and in time, Rafale units for offensive operations.
It will also be worth observing how the Rafale deal’s offset clause, particularly the 30% allocated for French vendor (e.g. Dassault, Thales, Safran Group, etc) investment in India’s military aviation efforts will impact Tejas development. Programs such as the Kaveri turbofan could see an influx not only funding, but also valuable outside party expertise and technology access to accelerate and close development.
A sufficient number of Tejas units in the IAF as well as greater indigenization of critical subsystems could provide the Tejas with the scale and independent supply base to be a very competitive export product. However, this is likely to be a medium-to-long term objective for HAL and the Indian MoD, especially in light of the IAF’s requirements and the remaining lead-time ahead of locally developed subsystems, such as the Kaveri.