HAL hands over Light Combat Aircraft Tejas to IAF

HAL hands over Light Combat Aircraft Tejas to IAF

HAL hands over Light Combat Aircraft Tejas to IAF

Often criticised for numerous missed deadlines, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme has now reached an important milestone in its journey.

HAL handed over the first LCA to the Indian Air Force (IAF) during a programme at the HAL airport here in the presence of Defence Minister M Parrikar, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and HAL Chairman R K Tyagi. A fly-past of the LCA marked the occasion.

The first LCA presented to the IAF on Saturday is the Production Series one (PS-1) and Initial Operational Clearance -II version (IOC-II). More aircrafts of the IOC-II will be delivered to the IAF as and when production takes place.  HAL will be able to produce 16 LCAs in two to three years time, which means IAF can form a squadron (16-18 aircraft) in three years time and base it in Sulur, Tamil Nadu.The LCA pogramme began in 1983 with a budget of around Rs 560 crore, which has over the last three decades jumped to nearly Rs 25,000 crore. If all versions of the LCA including the Naval one are considered, the budget will hit Rs 65,000 crore or 10 billion dollars. LCA frontline Pilot Suneeth Krishna, who flew the aircraft in fly-past, told Deccan Herald the aircraft is “combat and operational ready”.

“The aircraft presented to IAF is a weaponised version and can be deployed along the international border in actual battle situations. It can handle cold, heat and mountainous conditions because it has been tested to fly in all these. It is an all-weather aircraft. It is an aircraft that meets the requirements of any such aircraft in its class. Else, the IAF would not receive it.”

Krishna also said the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) version that the IAF wants is being readied and the aircrafts that are now being given to the IAF will incorporate all elements of the FOC version. “The IOC-II aircrafts don’t require major structural changes to become FOC aircrafts. Upgrades mostly in the software of the aircraft and some more weapons capabilities would be necessary. The design of the aircraft is in our hands completely and so upgrades can be carried out fairly easily. The design is not with you if you buy imported aircraft and you can’t upgrade the same beyond a point.”

The ace LCA pilot who has been with the LCA testing programme for almost a decade and a half when the first test flights commenced in 2001 January says the aircraft is very pilot-friendly.

“I find it very comfortable to fly and I think younger IAF pilots will also like flying this aircraft. Flying LCA is fun, a pilot’s delight. It is a fourth plus next generation aircraft compared to the MiG-21.”

The IAF has ordered a first batch of 40 LCA’s. As and when the FOC version gets ready, this new version will be inducted into the IAF squads. FOC is expected by December 2015, which means IAF will have brand new fourth generation aircrafts by mid-2016-2018.

The aircraft has a lifetime of about 20 years and IAF can depend on this platform up to 2040-45.