The Indian Air Force (IAF) has taken delivery of the first series production of Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) facility in Bangalore, India.
The delivery comes more than three decades after the project was sanctioned. It is expected to pave way for the aircraft induction and subsequent formation of the first Tejas squadron.
Indian Air Force Chief of Air Staff air chief marshal Arup Raha said the LCA is the need of the hour in wake of the operational requirements of the air force.
However, the aircraft is expected to achieve final operational clearance (FOC) only by the year-end. This is a further six-month delay from the earlier time limit of June, as reported by The Hindu.
Defence Research and Development Organisation aeronautical research and development projects director-general K Tamilmani said the Aeronautical Development Agency is still awaiting supply of the refuelling probe and the quartz nose cone to test the Tejas’ radar performance from Cobham.
He said: "If we get them by March this year as promised, then we can complete the remaining tests by September."
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A senior HAL official was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying that the FOC configuration aircraft would feature additional long-range weapons, an advanced electronic warfare suite and mid-air refuelling capability.
Tejas is designed to replace the IAF’s ageing fleet of MiG-21 and MiG-23 aircraft. It is a single-seat, lightweight, high-agility, supersonic fighter aircraft jointly manufactured by a consortium of five organisations pooled HAL and the Aeronautical Development Agency.
By 2020, HAL hopes to supply 40 Mark I LCA aircraft to the IAF, which is expected to ultimately field approximately 14 LCA squadrons.
HAL chairman R K Tyagi was quoted by The Indian Express as saying: "We have achieved 60 per cent indigenisation in this LCA project so far.
"We will produce six aircraft next year (2015-16) and subsequently scale it up to eight and 16 aircraft per year."
Also ordered by the Indian Navy, the aircraft features eight external hardpoints to carry stores, with three under each wing and a tailless compound delta platform. It can also be armed with air-to-air, air-to-ground, and anti-ship missiles, precision-guided munitions, rockets and bombs.
Image: A Tejas light combat aircraft in flight. Photo: courtesy of Rinju9.