India’s light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas on Saturday cleared a critical test point for its much-awaited Initial Operational Clearance (IOC-2), by firing an infrared (IR) seeking air-to-air R-73 E missile. The missile destroyed a target being towed by a pilotless target Lakshya, launched by an Indian Navy ship.
The test was conducted off Goa coast and the flight was piloted by Gp Capt Suneet Krishna (retd), a test pilot working with the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).
It was for the first time the Tejas proved its air defence role by firing a missile at a target using an onboard fire control radar, while the earlier tests were done using a helmet-mounted display (HMD) system. The test also paved the way for the IOC-2 declaration, now confirmed to be held in Bangalore on December 20.
Defence Minister A K Antony will lead a power-packed delegation for the December 20 event, for which the preparations have already begun at the Old HAL airport.
K Tamilmani, Director-General (Aeronautical Systems), DRDO, told Express that the missile firing had almost closed all test points remaining in the programme, ahead of IOC-2. “The pilot took the aircraft to around 4.5 km above sea-level, locked-on to the target (considered as an interceptor) and ‘killed’ it with pin-point precision. There are no major test points remaining and we are on track for the historic event on December 20,” Tamilmani said.
The braking systems of Tejas (with maximum all-up weight) was also tested in Goa to ensure that they don’t get excessively heated up, while landing.
While the programme has to go some more distance before the fighters get inducted into the IAF, the onus post-IOC-2 will shift towards HAL for rolling out the production version aircraft.