Thirty-six years after the Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) program was conceived, the indigenous fighter plane is combat-ready. On 20 February, on the inaugural day of the Aero India 2019, DRDO chief G Sateesh Reddy handed over the release of service certificate to Indian Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa.

Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said the FOC was a major milestone.

“You saw how much the aircraft (LCA) could fly and the number of sorties it could generate during exercise of GaganShakti. In February this year, in VayuShakti we showed you as to how accurately this aircraft could dispense weapons on the target. It can not only sustain a very high sortie rate but also carry out very accurate weapon delivery like it was shown in this exercise in both air to ground and air to air modes”

Request For Proposal of 83 Aircraft Soon

Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa added that the Request for Proposal for the production of 83 LCA MKI A will be issued soon. He added that six squadrons of Mark II version of the aircraft will replace ageing Jaguars, Mirage-2000s and MiG-29 fleets. “If you have seen how the LCA performed in Pokhran – bombing accuracy, air-to-air firing, firing accuracy – it was already ready. Pilots are very happy,” added the Air Force chief.

The Indian Air Force inducted the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) version of the Tejas in July 2015 into the 45 Squadron of the IAF based in Sulur near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu state. Since its initial flight, the Tejas has clocked over 1,500 hours of flying.

Some of the key improvement from the IOC version of the aircraft to the FOC version have been air-to-air beyond visual range missile firing, air-to-air refuelling capability and air-to-ground bombing. The service ceiling has been increased as well.