New Delhi: The IAF on Wednesday operationalised its No 18 Squadron, the "Flying Bullets", at Sulur, equipping it with TEJAS.

Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria flew the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS as the second squadron of the indigenous fighter got inducted in Sulur on Wednesday.

This was the veteran pilot’s first solo sortie after taking over as IAF chief. The first squadron of the Light Combat Aircraft, TEJAS was raised in 2016.

The Light Combat Aircraft TEJAS, indigenously designed by Aircraft Development Agency (ADA) under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is expected to be the backbone of the Indian Air Force in future as the mantra is self-reliance by reducing imports.

Indian Air Force current fleet is down to 30 squadrons -- way below the sanctioned strength of 42.

Each squadron comprises 18 fighter jets.

This year in March, the Ministry of Defence gave the go-ahead for the purchase of 83 TEJAS Mark-1A aircraft for the Indian Air Force at a cost of Rs 38,000 crore, bringing down the price from earlier Rs 56,000 quoted by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

This was a major breakthrough as after cost negotiations for over three years between the Ministry of Defence and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the price for procurement of advanced variant of the indigenously made Light Combat Aircraft TEJAS has been slashed by nearly Rs 18,000 crore.

As many as 40 TEJAS aircraft had been placed with HAL in initial configurations, while procurement of 83 of the more advanced Mk1A version of the aircraft from HAL by finalising the contractual and other issues got a clearance earlier.