Combat ready Tejas finally a reality for IAF

  • Tejas accorded the final operational clearance by aviation certifying authorities
  • IAF to soon issue the request for proposal for 83 Tejas MK-1A

Sharan Poovanna
Updated20 Feb 2019
A Tejas aircraft takes off during the inauguration of the air show Aero India 2019 in Bengaluru, Wednesday.
A Tejas aircraft takes off during the inauguration of the air show Aero India 2019 in Bengaluru, Wednesday.(PTI)

More than three-and-half decades after the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) or Tejas was conceived, the programme got a shot in the arm on Wednesday as it was accorded the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) by aviation certifying authorities, raising the hope of the Indian Air Force (IAF) that has been grappling to cope with its ageing fleet.

The release to service document, known as FOC, was handed over on Wednesday at the ongoing Aero India in Bengaluru.

“It a major milestone today that we have got the FOC for the LCA Mark 1,” B.S.Dhanoa, chief of Air Staff, said after the formal handing over of the documents.

“In Exercise Gagan Shakti in April 2018 and February this year in Exercise Vayu Shakti we showed you as to how accurately this aircraft can dispense weapons on the target,” he added to highlight that the aircraft was now combat ready.

He said that the LCA, that began as an ambitious programme in 1983, had proved that it could not just sustain a very high sortie rate but also carry out accurate weapon delivery of both air-to-air and air-to-ground targets.

The FOC coming at a time when several defence procurements of successive governments have been held to public scrutiny over alleged scams and kickbacks, especially in the run up to the parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held later this year.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused the Congress of favouring individual interests in the procurement of the AgustaWestland chopper deal by extraditing alleged conspirators in the deal. The Congress and other opposition parties have accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led centre of favouring corporate interests in the Rafale deal.

The first Rafale aircraft will be delivered to India in September this year.

"There is no scandal with Rafale, we had the request for 36 aircraft and we are going to deliver it,” Eric Trappier, chief of France-based Dassault Aviation that makes the combat aircraft said earlier at the biennial show. Trappier said that the company could make more such aircraft if the Indian government needed more.

Procedural delays among other hurdles has had a crippling effect on the Indian armed forces who are forced to continue using outdated technology, weapons and systems despite the consistently swelling defence budget.

Dhanoa said that the IAF will soon issue the request for proposal (RFP) for 83 Tejas MK-1A that would give it more firepower.

The IAF’s interests in acquiring more Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) developed products raising the hope for the cash strapped public sector unit, whose fortunes and order books have slimmed down in recent years. According to Nirmala Sitharaman, the union defence minister, the cost of 83 aircraft is estimated to be around 50,000 crore.

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