Tejas moves closer to induction into Indian Air Force

Antony to hand over formal certificate to chief of air staff

The country’s two-decade-wait to see an indigenously built supersonic flight will end when Defence Minister A K Antony hands over a formal “Release to Service Certificate” to  Chief of Air Staff P V Naik here on Monday.

Organisations involved, who are already gearing up to  upgrade engines for the next set of orders from the IAF, say that the flight will be hitch-free.

The IAF had first placed the orders for 40 LCAs in March 2005, which will be powered by the US General Electric GE-F404 engines. However, the remaining aircraft, five of which the IAF plans to induct in future, requires a “mark-2” engine, for which HAL, ADA and other organisations will be working together.

IAF sources said the upgrade is important as it looks to adopt the “most advanced technology “we can afford.”

Stating that the decision to upgrade the engines was made at least two years ago, HAL sources  said: “We will have absolutely no problem in upgrading the LCA to accommodate the more powerful, Mark II engines as we are familiar with the technology now and its just a little tweaking.”

Former LCA director Kota Harinarayan said the kind of severe resource crunch which existed during the early days, especially in terms of “trained manpower,” no longer constrains the organisations.

However, Air Force sources expressed doubts over HAL’s ability to produce the required aircraft. “Some of us are not convinced if the production deadlines can be met by HAL although we have been assured of it,” a source said.

A senior Ministry of Defence official said: “We have got no timeline as to when they (HAL) will begin the production process.” HAL Chairman Ashok Nayak had earlier told Deccan Herald: “There are no questions of having concerns about meeting the deadlines. We are in the process of expanding our facility to accommodate Tejas.”

The IAF plans to raise its first LCA by the end of this year which will be stationed at the Sulur air base in Tamil Nadu.

While all eyes are on the initial operation clearance for the LCA, Tejas, which has had 1805 test flights, (including two already this year) to get to this stage will have to take several more flying missions after Monday before it can obtain the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) — the final hurdle before being inducted into IAF’s operational service.

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