Indian military aviation regulator Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) has awarded the final operational clearance (FOC) for the country’s first light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas MK I.

Authorities handed over the FOC certificate and the release-to-service document (RSD) to Chief of Air Staff air marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa at ongoing Aero India in the city of Bengaluru.

The FOC award paves the way for the induction of Tejas MK I, a weaponised version of LCA, into the Indian Air Force.

According to the Ministry of Defence, FOC means LCA Tejas now has several additional key capabilities when compared to the initial operational clearance (IOC) aircraft.

New capabilities include beyond visual range missile capabilities, air-to-air refuelling, air-to-ground FOC-earmarked weapons and general flight envelope expansion.

The RSD outlines the capabilities, features and technologies that will be provided by the FOC standard aircraft.

“It is a fighter aeroplane and it has to behave like a fighter and it did well both in air-to-air and air-to-ground.”

Furthermore, the ministry added that the fighter jet’s manufacturer, state-owned aerospace and defence company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has already received the FOC standard aircraft drawings to commence production.

The drawings give details of key changes to be made over the IOC standard aircraft.

HAL obtained the IOC for LCA Tejas in 2013. The IAF inducted the IOC standard aircraft into No 45 Squadron in July 2016.

Dhanoa was quoted by the Press Trust of India (PTI) as saying: “It is a fighter aeroplane and it has to behave like a fighter and it did well both in air-to-air and air-to-ground.

“You saw how much the aircraft could fly, the number of sorties it could generate in exercise Gagan Shakti in April 2018 and in February this year. In exercise Vayu Shakti we showed you as to how accurately this aircraft could dispense weapons on the target. It can not only sustain a very high sortie rate but can also carry on very accurate weapon delivery.”

The IAF placed an order with the HAL for 83 LCA Mk 1A.

The FOC comes after CEMILAC gave permission to HAL to manufacture Tejas Mk1.