Watch India’s Indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft In Action (Video)
The country’s indigenously designed and developed multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft LCA-Tejas got the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC II) on Friday, a significant step towards its induction into IAF squadron.
The single-engine light weight state-of-the-art fighter aircraft will replace the ageing fleet of MiG 21s from the IAF and will be fully operational after attaining the ‘Final Operational Clearance’ (FOC) scheduled for the end of 2014.
Defence Minister AK Antony handed over the 500-page ‘Release to Service Certificate’ of the aircraft to IAF Chief NAK Browne marking the country’s elevation into the select club of nations with capability to produce fighter aircraft.
“During the last three years, the capabilities of the aircraft have been improved significantly. In recognition of the enhanced capabilities, IAF has decided to grant it a higher status, namely, the IOC-II for induction into the service,” Antony said.
After this the production of MK-II variant would be undertaken and IAF would raise four squadrons. In all about 200 aircraft would be inducted into the force. On why more aircraft would not be inducted, Air Chief Marshal Browne said it was so because the operational requirement for a particular type of aircraft were limited. “We require a balanced force which also has medium and heavy aircraft. The LCA seeks to replace the MiGs, whereas the medium range comprises aircraft like Mirage and the heavy like Sukhoi.”
About 250 MiGs still remain in the IAF which at the peak of their use had about 600 of them. The IAF had started decommissioning Mig 21 Type FL 77 category earlier this month.
The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) achieved Initial Operational Clearance (IOC-1) in January this year, the IOC-1 was a watered down version of a full IOC because the LCA did not meet the complete requirements.
When limited IOC was granted by the IAF last year, HAL was expected to deliver the first 20 Tejas Mk-1 aircraft to the IAF by end 2013, followed by the next batch of 20 aircraft in mid 2015. The Tejas was also expected to have 75 per cent indigenous content according to Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) sources by the time it attained FOC, something that will be impossible to achieve in the time-frame set.
The second lot of 20 aircraft will see the addition of a new Close Combat Missile (CCM – Python-5), Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, rockets, guided and unguided bombs along with new drop tanks and other refinements. The mid-air refueling system, however, will be integrated only on the Mk-2 variant.