The induction of the Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas into the Indian Air Force will be a `game changer’ for the country’s air defence preparedness, says Avinash Chander, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister.

"Though delayed, the India developed fighter aircraft has emerged as a `contemporary aircraft, as good or in a way better than the competitors in its class", Avinash Chander told Business Line.

The LCA signals the country’s indigenous capability to develop a major air-based weapon platform and a step towards achieving self-reliance in aircraft design, fabrication and manufacture. It has laid a sound base for a smooth take off in the efforts to develop more advanced fighter aircraft in the future, Avinash Chander, the Chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said.

The fighter aircraft, which obtained the Initial Operation Clearance on December 20, is a step away from induction into the IAF to replace the ageing MiG-21 aircraft. The immediate plan was to induct six squadrons of the IAF with the Tejas. This means about 120 aircraft. Already, the IAF has placed orders for two squadrons. Similarly, the Indian Navy will have at least 40 of the naval version of the fighter aircraft.

In the next 10 years, at least 200 LCA numbers are expected to bolster the country’s air strike power. The HAL, which will manufacture these aircraft will provide 16 per year. It has built capacity and will further ramp up production facilities.

The DRDO Chief saw Rs 100,000 crore opportunity in the next decade in the defence aircraft industry for the country. The gradual induction of the LCA will ensure a forex saving to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore. In addition, the savings on life cycle and maintenance costs will be close to that figure in the long run, he explained.

There is tremendous scope for small and medium enterprises to make components and sub-systems and supply to HAL. It will also lead to creation of expertise and industrial infrastructure in the country.

somasekhar.m@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 23, 2013)
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