India's own light combat aircraft, Tejas, achieved a major milestone today with the fighter aircraft being inducted into the Indian Air Force, after it got initial operational clearance early this month.
Defence minister AK Antony handed over the `Release to Service Certificate' of the country's first indigenous light combat aircraft to the Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, at a function in Bengaluru, marking the fruition of a long and difficult journey of three decades.
Tejas is the smallest, light weight, single engine, single seat, supersonic, multirole, combat aircraft and is one of the best in its class in the world.
Its digital fly-by-wire flight control system ensures acceptable handling qualities while ensuring adequate safety throughout the flight envelope, an official release said today.
Combat, trainer and naval variants of Tejas aircraft are being developed for land and carrier borne operations.
Tejas is designed to ultimately replace the MiG-21 fleet of IAF and the timing of IOC- II for the LCA coincides with the phasing out of iconic Mig 21 FL fighter from IAF's service.
Antony said, 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 the aircraft a higher status, namely, the initial operational clearance for induction into the service'', he said.
''The improvements to the aircraft have enhanced the flight envelope of the aircraft and also weapon delivery capability of the aircraft. The performance at `Iron Fist', Jaisalmer and the recent missile firing at Goa are examples of such improvements. The reliability of the aircraft and serviceability has also been enhanced. The number of flights nearing 500 within this year provides an indication of this. Operating at IAF bases, namely, Jamnagar, Jaisalmer, Uttarlai, Gwaliar, Goa, Leh, Pathankot demonstrate the aircraft capability to operate from Air Force bases. There have also been occasions when the same aircraft has flown thrice on the same day, indicating the operational reliability of this home-bred fighter aircraft,'' he said.
Besides the Tejas, Antony said military aviation in the country will get a major boost with the approval of several new programmes, including the Mk2 variants of Navy and Air Force, advanced medium combat aircraft, unmanned air systems, fifth generation fighter aircraft and medium transport aircraft, to name a few.
Antony called on the public and private sectors to work in tandem to develop and manufacture world-class military systems of the highest quality.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said it is indeed a proud day for the nation and particularly for the IAF.
He said the progress of such a challenging experimental project without any accident or major incident is unprecedented in the history of aviation.
ACM Browne said as he prepares to hang his uniform at the end of this month, he would have gone home as a disappointed person if the IOC of the LCA had not been achieved.
The LCA programme has been spearheaded by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Bangalore under the Defence Research and Development Organisation, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as its principal partner. A large number of laboratories of DRDO and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), certification agencies, Indian Air Force, academic institutions and private/public sector undertakings participated in the LCA project.
Today's event was attended among others by the scientific advisor to defence minister Avinash Chander, secretary of defence production GC Pati, chairman of HAL R K Tyagi, programme director of ADA P S Subramanyam, DG- Aero and CE of CEMILAC K Tamil Mani among others.