The first two contemporary or fourth generation Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas,’ designed and built in India, joined the Indian Air Force’s squadron called Flying Daggers in Bengaluru on Friday. It was a ceremonial but low-key affair.

 

The induction marked the fruition of a 33-year, nearly Rs. 8000-crore national dream to have an Indian fighter in the country’s air defence fleet.

The current IAF fighters are the French-origin Mirage-2000s and the Russian origin Sukhoi-30s and the aged MiGs.

Two more in pipeline

Two more LCA will join No. 45 Squadron in a few months. “With 45 Squadron commencing operations on Friday, soon the Tejas will be employed to defend the Indian skies,” the IAF said.

Group Captain Madhav Rangachari, who flew the squadron’s first flight for 10 minutes, is its first Commanding Officer, with experience in flying both the Mirage-2000 and the MiG-21. His team will initially have six pilots.

Tejas has been developed for the IAF and the Navy by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) starting 1985 and produced by the public sector aircraft manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, both based in Bengaluru.

Air Marshal Jasbir Walia, Air Officer Commanding-in Chief, Southern Air Command, formally inducted the planes with Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal R.K.S. Bhaduria, HAL CMD T. Suvarna Raju and DRDO Chief S. Christopher witnessing the ceremony.

All-faith prayer

Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Christian priests chanted prayers for the success of the Force’s youngest fleet, coconuts were broken and a senior HAL official handed over the documents to the IAF personnel.

A full squadron will have 16 fighters and two to four trainers. It will move to the base in Sulur in Tamil Nadu after two years. For now, the two will be stationed in Bengaluru in the care of HAL.

HAL said it was ramping up production at its two dedicated production lines. The IAF had ordered 40 LCA in two versions and promised to buy another 80 in the upgraded Mark 1A version. The first 20 are expected by 2018-19. On May 17, Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha flew the fighter in Bengaluru.

Conceived in 1985

The LCA was conceived in 1985 to replace the MiG-21 series. The first prototype flew in January 4, 2001.

The first interim or initial operational clearance was given in January 11, 2011, followed by a second IOC December 2013. The final or FOC is expected towards this year-end or early 2017, according to an official in the Ministry of Defence.

PM’s tweet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet called it a matter of “unparalleled pride and happiness”.

“This illustrates our skills and strengths to enhance indigenous defence manufacturing,” he said.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar congratulated the HAL and the ADA and termed the induction a “moment of national pride.”