Light combat aircraft Tejas set for first outing with Air Force

Bangalore | Updated on November 13, 2017 Published on January 10, 2011

By special arrangement

To get initial operational certificate today

Tejas, the first fighter plane designed and developed in the country, crosses a major milestone on Monday.

Ten years after it made its historic first test flight, the light combat aircraft - the world's lightest - is set to be released to the Air Force for further flights before it is finally cleared in a few years for induction into service.

Tejas is a ‘fourth-generation' fighter on par with contemporary technologies. Developed at an initial cost of Rs 5,600 crore, it is expected to form seven squadrons of the Air Force when it joins service in three to five years.

In the next decade, the IAF is expected to need 200-220 Tejas fighters to replace the MiGs and the Navy another 40 naval versions to replace Sea Harriers. It first flew to demonstrate the technology on January 4, 2001.

“This is the first time an indigenously designed and developed military fighter aircraft is being certified for Air Force operations,” said a release by DRDO, whose labs and centres have developed the plane over the last 20 years. “It is also a day to celebrate the achievements of the Indian aeronautical community in terms of self-reliance and mastering of the four-plus generation technologies of military aviation.”

On January 10, the Defence Minister, Mr A.K. Antony, will hand over a formal ‘release to service' certificate to the Chief of Air Staff and declare the initial operational clearance (IOC) for the Light Combat Aircraft, the release said.

Important achievement

“The occasion marks a very important achievement in the design and development of Tejas in particular and military aviation in the country on the whole. After this, Tejas will be available for use by IAF pilots.”

The certificate is given by the Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification — the body that approves products developed by DRDO, public and private sector companies in the country and abroad for use in military aircraft. CEMILAC “has thoroughly scrutinised the design, development, equipment testing and flight testing results of all the systems of Tejas over the last several months,” DRDO said.

In 2006, IAF placed an Rs 4,000-crore order with production partner and defence enterprise, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, for the first 20 aircraft and the next 20 last month. An upgraded Mark II with a more powerful engine from GE404 has been funded.

When the programme was initiated, the Tejas team had the challenge of jumping two generations of technologies. The team included the lead centre, the Aeronautical Development Agency, HAL, besides DRDO, IAF, CEMILAC, DGAQA, public and private industries and academic institutions.

In November 2001, the Government announced funding for building the fighter and trainer prototypes and also set up a limited series production line of eight aircraft.

In March 2004, a second demonstrator and a fully kitted-out prototype vehicle were flown.

Today, 11 LCA aircraft have made 1,500 test flights to demonstrate the working of all the required sensors and weapons, and safe and reliable flying within the specified flight envelope. As many as 15 test pilots from the IAF and the Navy have flown it.

According to DRDO, the Tejas programme has raised the technology level of design, development, ground testing and flight testing in the country. It has also nurtured a large number of aeronautical engineers.

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Published on January 10, 2011
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