LCA first squadron to be raised in mid-2011

The country’s first homegrown fighter plane is set to get the initial operational clearance (IOC) in January next.

Ministry of Defence spokesperson Sitanshu Kar told Deccan Herald: “LCA’s IOC is scheduled for the second week of January in Bangalore and Defence Minister A K Antony will preside over the event. The exact date is yet to be finalised.”

Sources, however, said it was most likely either on January 10 or January 11. Sources at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited working closely with the project said the first platform, series production-1 from the initial block of 20 will be ready by June or July next year.

A senior retired IAF officer said: “Generally, a squadron comprises 18 pilots, a service aircraft, standby platform and a trainer. However, the number could vary depending on the aircraft and other variables.”

Test pilots from the IAF’s Bangalore-based unit, Aircraft System and Testing Establishment will fly Tejas, once the IOC formalities are completed. They will have at least 2,000 hours to 3,000 hours of flying logged against their names.

“The squadron pilots may not have this kind of flying hours and expertise against their names and in a project so important for the country, pre-flight preparations too assume great importance,” sources said.

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