Inching closer to modernization with self sufficiency, India’s first homegrown supersonic fighter jet, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’, was handed over to the IAF by Defence minister, A K Antony after the Initial Operational Clearance.
The LCA, which has remained under development for nearly three decades and braved technology denial regimes, has achieved the significant milestone in the presence of Defence Minister A K Antony and Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik.
Post clearance, the LCA will now take several flying missions and after that it will have to obtain its Final Operational Clearance (FOC) to be finally inducted into operational service, which is likely to happen by the end of 2012, Ministry officials said.
The IAF has plans to deploy the aircraft at one of its bases in Bangalore to do away with the “teething problems” in association with its designers and manufacturers, both of whom are based out of Bangalore.
Being India’s much-awaited project, LCA design and development by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was initiated in 1983 with a budget of Rs 560 crore.
Nicknamed ‘Tejas’ in 2004, the LCA designing had been launched in 1985 by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under the DRDO with HAL as the nodal manufacturing agency.
The aircraft’s development was affected by the US sanctions imposed in 1998 also led to delay in importing some items and developing alternate equipment, since vendors identification and development to production cycle took time.
Now the IAF intends to induct two squadrons in IOC mode by the middle of 2011. The IAF had first placed the orders for 40 LCAs in March 2005.
The first 40 LCAs will be powered by the American General Electric GE-F404 engines. A total of 99 such engines are to be purchased under the deal with General Electric. IAF also has plans to induct five more squadrons (100 aircraft) in the coming years but with a more powerful engine, the announcement for which came in 2009.
The government had a couple of months ago chosen GE-F414 as the new engine for future LCAs after rejecting its competitor Eurojet’s EJ200 engine. The IAF may ultimately have around 200 LCAs (10 squadrons) in its fleet, primarily to replace the ageing Russian MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter jets.
IAF will base the first of its LCA squadrons at its Sulur air base near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.