NEW DELHI: The Tejas light combat aircraft programme will end up costing India well over Rs 55,000 crore at the very least. The overall developmental cost of the home-grown fighter, which remains a critical operational necessity despite still being in the making after 30 years, currently stands at Rs 17,269 crore. Then, the production cost of each Tejas will conservatively be around Rs 220 crore. If as per the existing plan, IAF goes in for 120 fighters and the Navy for 50, it adds up to Rs 37,440 crore. The defence ministry till now has approved orders for 20 Tejas jets in “initial operational clearance (IOC)” configuration for Rs 2,813 crore for IAF, and another 20 in final FOC configuration for Rs 5,989 crore. IAF currently has 10 ageing MiG-21 squadrons (each with 20-21 jets) and four MiG-27 ones. They are to be replaced by six squadrons of Tejas and another six under the almost $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project for which 126 French Rafale jets are under consideration. Confirming what TOI had reported last year, defence minister Mr A K Antony gave some indication of all this in Parliament on Wednesday by holding that the developmental cost of Tejas, including the IAF and naval variants, stands at Rs 14,033 crore as of now. But he did not include the Rs 2,839 crore spent on trying to develop the Kaveri aeroengine, which has failed to materialise. So, India is going to power its fighters with American GE-404 engines (two Tejas Mark-I squadrons), and the more powerful GE F-414 engines (four Tejas Mark-II squadrons). He also did not factor in Rs 396 crore sanctioned for “development of indigenous technologies for LCA”. The first Tejas (IOC) squadron will be fully in place at the Sulur airbase in Tamil Nadu only by 2016-2017, while the second one of FOC will come thereafter. The four Tejas Mark-II squadrons, in turn, will only start to come in from 2021-2022 onwards. Mr Antony, however, said the Phase-I and II development cost of Tejas stood at Rs 7,965 ($1.09 billion), including building of 15 aircraft and creation of infrastructure for production of eight aircraft per annum. “This compares with the developmental cost of (Swedish) JAS-39NG Grippen at $1.08 billion for developing five proto vehicles,” he said. “Tejas has approximately 60% indigenous content. As a result, production cost as well as life cycle costs of Tejas will be comparatively lower to that of any other comparable class of aircraft,” he added.
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