Close to 30 years after work on the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) began, a major milestone was achieved on Friday. The Initial Operational Clearance-II (release to service) documents were handed over to the Indian Air Force, taking the LCA a step closer to their induction into the Indian Air Force as a replacement for the MiG-21 fleet which
is being phased out.
A flight demonstration, showcasing the tracking and targeting systems of the aircraft was held on Friday morning following which Defence Minister A K Antony handed over the IOC-II documents to Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne signalling acceptance by the IAF of the ‘Tejas’ after several concerns raised by the IAF in the past years.
“It is imperative to create a robust spare parts supply chain. We look forward to the induction of two squadrons of the Tejas Mark I and four of the Mark II variant in the future,” Browne said. Antony sought to downplay the issues raised by the IAF earlier by saying that criticism was aimed only to make the project more productive. Antony said that the defence PSUs must focus on Research and Development and not be miserly about it. “You must spend more money on R&D instead of depositing it in the bank. Your priority must be indegenisation and imports must be the last priority,” he said. The first production aircraft is expected to be out by March or April 2014 and IAF teams will start working with the aircraft immediately to reduce the time for familiarisation before the Final Operational Clearance which is scheduled for December next year.
According to Antony, a total of six squadrons of the MK I and MK II variants will be inducted into the IAF and 40 planes into the Navy with an option of increasing the numbers upto 200. The MK II variant is in the final stage of design and will come up for a preliminary design review in mid-January, according to Director ADA.