The target for the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas to achieve Final Operational Clearance (FOC) is December 2018, the Government informed Parliament on Monday. However, official sources said this is likely to slip further to the middle of next year as there are several capabilities yet to be validated.

“Production for 20 LCA will be taken up after FOC by Aeronautical Development Agency, for which current target is December 2018,” Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had signed two contracts with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, one for 20 aircraft in Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration signed on March 31, 2006 to be completed by December 2011 and another for 20 aircraft in FOC standard signed on December 23, 2010 which was to be completed by 2016. The IAF constituted the first LCA squadron with two IOC configuration aircraft in 2016 and as of July 2018 only nine aircraft have been inducted. The deadline for FOC was missed again last month.

“The next target for the FOC is December, but that may likely be delayed by another six months as several parameters are yet to be validated,” an official source said.

Yet To Be Demonstrated

The major capabilities that are yet to be demonstrated on the Tejas are gun firing, air-to-air refuelling and new data-linked software defined radios, among others. The IAF has conveyed that its wants new data links as a standard feature on the FOC variant as communications are an essential feature for an aircraft to operate in a network-centric environment.

Dr. Bhamre said that the IOC aircraft is currently capable of “undertaking air defence operations and conventional ground attack with heavy bombs is feasible.”