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Tejas gets Initial Operational Clearance

K.V. Prasad

‘Certificate of Release to Service' given 27 years after Light Combat Aircraft was conceived



Flying high:The Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas' takes off from the HAL airfield in Bangalore on Monday during the Initial Operational Clearance function.

BANGALORE: The voyage of India's first indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas' moved one step closer towards its induction into the Indian Air Force.

Twenty-seven years after it was conceived, the LCA project progressed further, with Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony handing over the ‘Certificate of Release to Service' to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, here on Monday.

Describing the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) as a “historic occasion,” Mr. Antony said the state-of-the-art combat aircraft would go a long way in enhancing national security and the pride of the country towards building “our own combat aircraft capability.”

Congratulating the dedicated team of scientists and engineers for the achievement, Mr. Antony said the Ministry and the IAF stood behind the project even though skeptics advised the abandoning of the Defence Research Development Organisation's (DRDO) indigenous LCA and the Main Battle Tank ‘Arjun' projects.

The LCA project has spent Rs.12,000 crore of the Rs.25,000 crore sanctioned for developing the Mark II and Naval variant, he said, adding that it was estimated that the country needed 200 Tejas aircraft.

“I am happy that both are becoming a reality,” Mr. Antony said in his address at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited airfield complex. He praised Kota Harinayana, pioneer of the Aeronautical Development Agency, which steers the LCA project.

The first of two IOC-configured ‘Tejas' will be handed over to the IAF by March this year, while another two will be given towards the end of the year. These will be part of the consignment of 20 aircraft that the IAF ordered. The rest will be delivered progressively till the end of 2013.

The IAF has also placed an order for an additional 20 aircraft. The two squadrons, once inducted, will be based at Sulur, Coimbatore.

The Final Operational Clearance (FOC) is expected to take two years, and Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said the DRDO should improve some aspects like all weather clearance as agreed.

The single-engine LCA is estimated to cost between Rs.180-200 crore apiece, with an additional Rs.10 crore for the trainer version with the second seat. Announcing this, HAL chairman Ashok Nayak said it had a production line-capacity to manufacture up to 10 aircraft a year.

DRDO Chief V.K. Saraswat described the development as a new page in the history of Indian aeronautics.

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