A legacy that almost died with Capt Das

A coincidence

Das was flying a sortie on the German-designed fighter plane, Marut, India’s first indigenous fighter plane, and on take-off, the canopy opened and “probably the right engine lost power,” the Indian Air Force sources told Deccan Herald.

Today, on the 41st anniversary of Das’ death, who has a road named after him near HAL in the City (Suranjan Das Road), India’s supersonic fighter Tejas got the initial operational clearance (IOC).

Amid debates on whether the coincidence is ironic or a tribute to Das and Marut, Tejas, something the Centre and the armed forces were vying for in order to bridge the gap created by shelving Project Marut, moved one step closer to induction.

The IAF sources said: “The Air Staff Requirement, on whose recommendations such projects are envisaged, had dropped plans of suggesting creation of a fighter plane until 1985.”

In 1985 came the requirement proposal for a light combat aircraft, which was christened Tejas in the mid-2000s. And the rest is history.

Incidentally, neither the HAL nor the Ministry of Defence recalled the 1970 incident on the historic day Tejas got its IOC, after over three decades of development and research spearheaded by the Aeronautical Development Agency.

The lightweight aircraft powered by American GE-F404 engine has been developed from scratch, putting India in the select club of nations like Russia, France, the US and Britain.
The Release to Service certificate was prepared by RCMA, an organisation of the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification.

Defence Minister A K Antony said: “The country is poised for a major turning point with this development, which has been achieved after surpassing a number of challenges and accomplishing a significant milestone, especially in the last decade.”

Allaying fears of further delay or problems with the project, he said: “I am confident that there is scope for supplying more Mk2 variants to the Navy and the Air Force and the country would shortly see the first flight of LCA’s Navy variant.”

Chief Air Marshal P V Naik said Tejas, which will give the much-needed thrust to the Air Force once some shortcomings are rectified, is comparable to the Swedish fighter plane Griffin.

This is the first time that an indigenously designed and developed military fighter aircraft is being certified for Air Force operations. After this, Tejas will be available for use by the IAF pilots.

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