NEW DELHI — India’s indigenously developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is likely to win its final operational service clearance, following testing as part of an air exercise in February.
The single-seat, single-engine supersonic fighter will be put to the test during the “Iron Feast” exercise to be held in Pokhran in the western Indian state of Rajasthan.
“The Tejas will display its capabilities in the exercise, where its lethality, endurance and precision will be tested, and if the aircraft meets all parameters, its first squadron will be deployed in Bengaluru,” says Air Marshal Anjan Kumar Gogoi, chief of Southwestern Air Command.
The Tejas is designed to carry air-to-air, air-to-surface, precision-guided and standoff weaponry.
As of March, the LCA had undergone more than 1,816 test flights up to speeds of Mach 1.4. Initial Operational Clearance-1 (IOC-1) was achieved in January 2011. According to the Indian defense ministry, the Tejas has undertaken weapon trials, including flights with a laser-guided bomb. Various sensor trials also were conducted early this year. All told, the Tejas program has clocked 1,903 flights, totaling 1,120 hr.
The(IAF), which has ordered 40 Tejas Mk-1s from . (HAL), has begun to induct the LCA, according to a ministry official. Out of the 40 aircraft, 20 were ordered under the IOC standards, with the rest under Final Operational Clearance standards. IAF plans to induct six LCA squadrons over the next 10 years, the official adds.
The first two squadrons, comprising 40 aircraft, will have first-generation Mk. 1 fighters. The additional four squadrons would be more-powerful Tejas Mk. 2s. The final price tag of the Mk. 2 only will be available after its development phase is complete , the official says.
The LCA’s design and development program is being led by the Aeronautical Development Agency, with HAL as the prime contractor.
The Indian government so far has approved 118.45 billion rupees ($2.1 billion) for the development of the Tejas, of which 50.51 billion rupees has been spent, the official says.