India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has completed weapons trials in preparation for its operational clearance before the end of this year.

The single-seat, single-engine supersonic fighter also underwent flight trials in the western desert state of Rajasthan, a defense ministry official says.

“The bombing runs, which were part of a campaign for the second phase of initial operational clearance (IOC-2) and final operational clearance (FOC), were carried out over [the] last two days at the Pokhran field firing ranges, where India conducted its nuclear tests,” the official says.

The tests were conducted by three LCA aircraft — LSPs 2, 3 and 5 — that deployed a series of weapons, including laser-guided 1000-lb. bombs and unguided bombs, he says. The tests were an extension of the weapons deployment trials that took place in Pokhran last September.

Although LSPs 2 and 5 were fielded again this year, LSP 4, which was used last year, was replaced with LSP 3 for this year’s tests, the defense official explains.

The aircraft pounded on an area with a variety of armaments such as precision-guided bombs and conventional bombs weighing up to 500 kg during the tests. The bombs hit the targets on the ground with great accuracy, the official says.

Tejas is planned to be finally cleared for operational service by 2013. Maritime trials are likely to begin soon and the LCA also is gearing up to fire a beyond-visual-range missile, which will be either the Rafael Derby or the Vympel R-77.

The chief of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), V.K. Saraswat, has said that the Indian air force (IAF) is likely to induct the indigenously developed LCA later this year. The aircraft was designed by DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Agency and manufactured at Bengaluru- based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The cost of procurement of the Tejas is about 90 billion rupees ($1.5 billion).

“Tejas’ final operational clearance has reportedly been delayed [until] mid-2013 or later,” defence spokesperson Col. S.D. Goswami says.

A total of 40 Tejas LCA Mk 1 aircraft are on order. There are plans to order LCA Mk 2 aircraft for 10 more squadrons (about 180 total aircraft) after completing production of LCA Mk 1, Goswami says.

Tejas photo: Indian MOD