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Upgraded Tejas may take flight in 3 years after govt nod, says HAL MD

The announcement on Mk-1A version of Tejas came a day after the much-delayed project received its operational clearance. (Photo: PTI)Premium
The announcement on Mk-1A version of Tejas came a day after the much-delayed project received its operational clearance. (Photo: PTI)

  • Orders for the LCA will likely help HAL deflect the negative publicity it has attracted in political slugfest
  • The announcement of the Mk-1A version of Tejas came a day after the much-delayed project received its final operational clearance

BENGALURU : An upgraded version of India’s homegrown supersonic light combat aircraft Tejas is expected to take flight within three years of receiving requisite permissions from the defence ministry, said the top official at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which makes the aircraft, as the state-run company seeks to shake off questions on its ability to meet the growing needs of India’s military.

The announcement on the development of the Mk-1A version of Tejas came a day after the much-delayed project received its final operational clearance and certifications that it was combat ready with addition of key capabilities such as integration of weapons systems and air-to-air refueling.

“We are yet to receive an order from the IAF (Indian Air Force) but parallelly with our own funds, we have started going into the developmental activities," R. Madhavan, HAL’s chairman and managing director said at the ongoing Aero India, the biennial air show in Bengaluru.

“For this development, it is going to take three to four years," he said.

A proposal to supply 83 Mk-1A jets to the IAF is with the defence ministry and a decision on a potential order is likely in a month or two, he said.

Tejas is key for the air force for replacing its ageing fighter aircraft fleet. The induction of advanced weaponry is crucial for the efforts of the Indian military to either upgrade or replace its mainly Soviet-era equipment.

Orders for the LCA will likely help HAL deflect some of the negative publicity it has attracted in the political slugfest between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress over the French-made Rafale fighter jets.

The Congress has alleged that the BJP government diverted a production deal for Rafale from HAL to the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure Ltd, which has a 51:49 joint venture with Dassault Aviation of France.

News that HAL, one of the so-called ‘Navartna’ companies, had to borrow nearly 1,000 crore to pay salaries, provided more ammunition to the opposition to target the government in the run-up to general elections due by May.

Questions raised on the ability and functioning of HAL by Union minister and former Army chief V.K.Singh made matters worse for the Centre.

The HAL chief was unruffled on Thursday. “Yes we do feel bad when there are bad things said, but it has not affected us. Our staff and middle management are more enthusiastic. This does not affect our business either," Madhavan said, adding that the company’s quality was on a par with the wider industry.

HAL also dismissed reports about its financial health.

“The financial condition of the company is very stable; there are no problems. Our reserves and surpluses are very good at this point. Our targets are being met, our profitability is increasing. The only issue was the cash flow, because of some receivables and budget allocation delays -- even these are being sorted out," said C. B. Ananthakrishnan, director (finance) and chief financial officer.

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