A day after the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas received the much-awaited Final Operational Clearance (FOC) for its weaponised version, Army Chief Bipin Rawat flew the jet on a sortie at the Aero India 2019 here on Thursday. General Rawat’s feedback after the flight was spontaneous: “Wonderful aircraft.”
Dressed in green overhauls, as General Rawat stepped down after a 30-minute sortie from the indigenously designed and developed aircraft, a huge media posse stood waiting. “If aircraft like this get added to the IAF inventory, it will increase the strength our air power,” he told them at the Yelahanka Air Force Station here.
Seated behind the pilot, Air Vice Marshal N Tiwari from the National Flight Testing Centre, General Rawat’s flight did not do the loop. “We stuck to the normal manoeuvres. Flight in the Tejas was an experience of a lifetime. From what I could witness, avionics and targeting in the radar are very good,” he noted.
Asked whether the LCA’s induction will boost the confidence of IAF in combating external threats, General Rawat left it to the Air Force Chief to respond. But he was sure that the Army and the IAF will jointly tackle any such threat.
On Wednesday, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal B S Dhanoa had dubbed the FOC to the LCA as a major milestone. He remarked that the aircraft, through several sorties, had demonstrated the precision with which it could deliver weapons. The FOC and release-to-service documents were presented to him at the airshow.
The FOC has come at a time when the LCA’s manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is facing criticism over the recent Mirage 2000 crash that killed two test pilots at the HAL Airport on February 1.
Despite the delay in its formal induction to the IAF, the LCA has always been touted as a flagship product of the State-owned aviation major at all the recent airshows. The FOC was based on the clearance Tejas got after performing air-to-ground attacks and air-to-air refuelling at IAF’s Vayu Shakti air display at Pokhran in Rajasthan on February 16.