The most advanced version of India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has made its first flight, setting the stage for its induction into the country’s air force.

The limited series production aircraft (LSP-8) is the last in the indigenously developed Tejas’ flight line before it is prepared for deployment for operational service by 2015.

LSP-8 had a nearly 25-min. flight on March 31 at “supersonic speed” and at an “angle of attack of 20 degrees,” says an official at the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) in Bengaluru. “With this, the initial operational clearance for the aircraft can be expected soon.”

Developed by the Defense and Research Development Organization’s (DRDO) Aeronautical Development Agency and manufactured at HAL, the Tejas aircraft has faced delays over more than two decades. It will have to attain final operational clearance (FOC) before being inducted into the Indian air force (IAF).

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne says the Initial Operational Clearance II (IOC-II) will happen by the end of this year, while the FOC will take another two years. Initial Operational Clearance I (IOC-I) was achieved in January 2011. Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony on March 23 asked the DRDO not to extend the FOC date beyond 2014.

The Tejas already has undergone nearly 2,000 test flights up to speeds of Mach 1.4. It has undertaken weapon trials, including flights with a laser-guided bomb, according to the Indian defense ministry. Various sensor trials were also conducted last year.

The aircraft is believed to have recently undergone a series of checks by certifying and inspecting agencies to review its performance, the HAL official says.

Sunday’s flight took place without the aircraft having completed “high-speed taxi trials,” which is considered mandatory, he adds.

“The flight clearance by the certifying agencies was accorded after ensuring that all the aircraft systems related to fuel, environment condition, electrical and avionics were functioning satisfactorily on [the] ground,” he adds.

The Tejas is designed to carry air-to-air, air-to-surface, precision-guided and standoff weaponry. The cost of procurement of the Tejas is about 90 billion rupees ($1.5 billion).

Tejas photo: Indian Defense Ministry