Hope Floats

LCA Tejas receives FOC and is inducted into the IAF

Rohan Ramesh

There was tangible excitement in the air and relieved looks on the faces of personnel belonging to the LCA Tejas design and development teams as the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL’s) baby LCA Tejas MKI achieved Final Operational Capability (FOC) at last on a warm spring evening in Bengaluru at Aero India 2019. Decades since its conception, the Tejas MKI was accepted into service by the Indian Air Force (IAF) after gaining FOC issued by Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC).

Light Combat Aircraft Tejas

Various Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) agencies such as ADE, GTRE, LRDE, CEMILAC etc., as well as other players such as BEL, CSIR, DG-AQA, and private sector firms have had a hand in the making of a fighter that is today called LCA Tejas.

In the presence of defence secretary Sanjay Mitra and Chairman and Managing Director of HAL R. Madhavan, FOC certificate and Release to Service Document (RSD) were handed over to the Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa.

Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) of the aircraft was given in the year 2013 and in July 2016, IOC standard aircraft were inducted into IAF No. 45 Squadron. Having flown the Tejas over 1500 sorties successfully, the rather picky IAF seems to be satisfied.

ACM Dhanoa pointed out that the aircraft had performed well in exercises and was combat ready. He also said that the focus next would be on the Tejas MKII which would ultimately replace Mirage-2000, SEPECAT Jaguar and MiG-27 squadrons in the IAF.

Despite being burdened with pitfalls and roadblocks such as when Lockheed Martin, who were assisting LCA National Control Law (CLAW) team at the National Aeronautics Laboratory to develop a state-of-the-art digital Fly-by-wire control system for the Tejas, quit at the instance of the US government as part of its sanctions against India for conducting nuclear tests in 1998, to ultimately being powered by American engine maker GE, the LCA Tejas seems to have finally made it.

The Kaveri engine designed by the Gas Turbine Research Establishment under DRDO also faced many issues and though plans are on to revive it with help from French engine manufacturer Snecma, it looks like the engine may not power the LCA, at least not soon. Instead, it has been decided to equip the LCA Tejas Mk.2 with General Electric F414-INS6 engines. Over 83 LCA Tejas Mk.1A have been ordered by the IAF which may also be equipped with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars.

Now, the first IAF squadron flying Tejas No 45 Squadron ‘The Flying Daggers’, which is operating from Sulur Air Force Station near Coimbatore, flies the LCA Tejas Mk.1 equipped with the General Electric F404-IN20 engine. The F404-IN20 engine will equip the first 40 LCA Tejas of the IAF.

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