The dream of the Indian Air Force to have Indian made squadron of the Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas has become a reality on Friday.
After years of delay, the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft — Tejas — has been inducted into the Indian Air Force at IAF’s Aircraft Systems & Test Establishment in Bengaluru on Friday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the induction of indigenously-built Light Combat Aircraft Tejas into the Air Force, terming it as a matter of “unparalleled pride and happiness” and a step which illustrates the skills and strenghts of Indian scientists.
“Induction of indigenously made Tejas fighter jet into the Air Force fills our hearts with unparalleled pride & happiness,” PM tweeted.
As a symbolic gesture, the aircraft performed its first sortie during the induction ceremony, indicating its entry into the elite Air Force squad.
Tejas launched by Air Marshal Jasbir Walia, Air Officer Commanding-in Chief, and Southern Air Command will be based in Bengaluru for the first two years before being moved to Sulur in Tamil Nadu.
IAF officials say that in comparison to JF 17, which is jointly developed and built by Pakistan and China, the IAF fares “better”. IAF plans to replace the MiG 21s with Tejas and use them for air-to-air fight.
“It is a better one since it is mostly made of composite which makes it light and very agile. It also comes with smart ammunitions and bombs which help it to hit targets in a precise manner,” said an officials.
Earlier in the day, state-run HAL handed over the first two Tejas aircraft to IAF which was inducted as the first squadron of home-grown Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. Chief Marshal Arup Raha, who on May 17 took his maiden flight in Tejas, had termed the aircraft as “good” for induction.
All squadrons of Tejas will be made up of 20 planes in total, including four in reserve. As per the plan, while 20 would be inducted under the “Initial Operational Clearance”, another 20 will be inducted later with Beyond Visual Range Missile (BVR) and some other features.
The IAF plans to induct over 80 aircraft with better specifications known as Tejas 1A.
The upgraded version of Tejas, with Active Electrically Scanned Array Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare Suite, mid-air refuelling capacity and advance beyond the vision range missiles, will cost between Rs 275 crore and Rs 300 crore.
While the idea to have an indigenous fighter aircraft was conceptualised in 1970s, the actual work started only in the 80s and the first flight took place in January 2001
They will launch the new Squadron 45 ‘Flying Daggers’, which will get the remaining 18 aircraft including four trainers in 2018.
The LCA project began in 1985 and the IAF planned to induct it in 1994 to replace the MiG-21s. After long delays, the LCA achieved the first level of flight worthiness or Initial Operational Clearance in December 2013. The Final Operational Clearance is expected by this year-end.