Final clearance eludes Tejas light combat aircraft

Final clearance eludes Tejas light combat aircraft

The much-awaited final operational clearance for Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) will not take place by December 2014 as previously scheduled.

This is because the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is yet to receive two crucial equipment, required to improve the performance of the home grown fighter, from a British vendor.

“The final operational clearance (FOC) for Tejas LCA will not happen by December 2014. It may take at least another three to six months,” K Tamilmani, director-general, aeronautical systems at DRDO, told Deccan Herald here.

The delay is due to the slippage in time to get imported fuel probe and quartz nose cone from a UK-based company named Cobham PLC.

Fitting the air-to-air refuelling probe and replacing the existing composite radome nose cone by a quartz-made one are two critical conditions, which the Tejas has to fulfil before approaching the regulator for final operational clearance.

Tejas was cleared in January 2011 for use by Indian Air Force. It received a second operational clearance (IOC II) on December 20, 2013.

Former defence minister A K Antony told Parliament in August 2013 that DRDO and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) have been asked to strictly adhere to the planned schedules for the FOC by end of 2014 to ensure LCA’s timely induction into the Indian Air Force.

Three decades after it received the government’s approval, Tejas is still in the making. When it began in the 1980s, the estimated project cost was Rs 560 crore.

But the government has so far spent Rs 7,965 crore as the developmental cost of LCA including 15 aircraft and creation of infrastructure to manufacture eight aircraft every year. The Defence Ministry allocated a total of Rs 14,000 crore for developing up to Mark III version of LCA and up to Mark II version of LCA Navy.

“While Tejas underwent 2,700 flights so far, another 200-300 flights are still required before it is ready for the FOC,” Tamilmani said.

The quartz nose cone, which will improve the fighter’s performance by 20-30 per cent, is expected to arrive by November after which it will have to undergo ground tests followed by integration. It will add to the aircraft cost and enhance the radar’s range of detection.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) readied the first Series Production aircraft (SP1), which is expected to fly in “a few days,” he said.

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