The development cost for Tejas, which has completed 395 test flights and crossed the 1.4 Mach supersonic speed barrier, is currently pegged at Rs 5,489 crore.
The new American F/A-22 Raptor stealth fighter costs Rs 480 crore. The Rafale multi-role jet being inducted into the French Air Force and Navy, in turn, notches about Rs 270 crore. The price tag for the French Mirage-2000 and the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen also hovers between Rs 130 crore and Rs 160 crore.
In contrast, despite huge time and cost overruns, the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft "Tejas" will cost only Rs 100-110 crore. And perish any thought of Tejas becoming "obsolete" by 2010 when it will be inducted into the IAF. Its "open-architecture" avionics and "glass cockpit" systems ensure it can be constantly upgraded.
This was the basic message delivered by defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, defence secretary Ajai Vikram Singh, DRDO chief M Natarajan and others to the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Defence on Tuesday after members expressed serious concerns about the long-delayed project.
The MPs were also told that Tejas, which will be the world's smallest, lightweight and relatively cheapest frontline combat aircraft, had excellent "export potential". Sources said Brazilian aviation major Embraer - India has ordered five Legacy VVIP jets from it for Rs 727 crore - has already shown interest to jointly market Tejas worldwide.
The development cost for Tejas, which has now completed 395 test flights and even crossed the 1.4 Mach supersonic speed barrier, is currently pegged at Rs 5,489 crore. This again is quite low compared to Gripen's development cost of around Rs 12,640 crore.
The LCA project, of course, was sanctioned way back in 1983 to replace India's ageing MiG fleet. The project cost was only Rs 560 crore then. The parliamentary standing committee on defence has, in fact, asked the government to "fix responsibility" for the inordinate delays in the project and the indigenous Kaveri engine.
The snags in Kaveri has meant that the first two Tejas squadrons will be powered by the American GE-404 engines. The IAF has projected a requirement of 200 Tejas fighters and 20 trainers at present.
Defence officials say Tejas incorporates several "new" technologies like "unstable aerodynamic configuration" to achieve higher agility, fly-by-wire flight control system, digital integrated avionics, advanced optroncis, multi-mode radar and composite airframe.