BENGALURU: Excitement is in the air as the Indian Air Force prepares to receive the first production-series Tejas in the next couple of days.
Tejas is India’s dream light combat aircraft, in production for three decades. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, the Bengaluru-based plane manufacturer, is all set to present LCA Tejas to the IAF.
Defence Ministry sources told Express the formal handover was likely on Saturday, when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and IAF chief Arup Raha will be in the city, but no official confirmation was forthcoming.
At the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Parrikar and Raha will review progress on the final operational clearance (FOC), expected in the fourth quarter this year, sources said.
ADA, which has designed and developed the single-engine supersonic fighter, is working on the FOC with other agencies. HAL took up the series production of 20 aircraft after it got the second initial operational clearance in December 2013. The aircraft to be handed over to the IAF will be the first in this series. “The presentation will prove that India can produce state-of-the-art fighter aircraft,” HAL Chairman RK Tyagi told Express.
The government-run factory is set to deliver the second plane by the end of March. “Four aircraft will be delivered in the next financial year, and eight every year thereafter,” said Tyagi, whose term as head of HAL ends this month.
3 Decades in Making, Tejas Ready for Crucial Handover
Since the Indian Air Force is looking at the Tejas as a replacement for its aging fleet of Russian-made MiG-21s, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has proposed a Rs.12,000 crore project to scale up its capacity to roll out 16 aircraft a year.
“Once that is approved, we can start work,” said Tyagi.
According to the proposal, HAL will invest 50 per cent, while the IAF and the Indian Navy will share the rest of the cost equally. The navy version of Tejas is being developed by ADA and will also be produced by HAL.
In the three decades since the project was conceived, the government has spent Rs.8,000 crore on it. It is pricing each aircraft at Rs. 120 crore, while the actual cost of production is about Rs.180 crore, a source said.
This plane will work out cheaper than foreign aircraft in the long run if the life-cycle cost is taken into account, an HAL insider argued.
Final Clearance This Year?
January 2011: Tejas gets the first Initial Operational Clearance (IOC-I). Some limitations in combat performance, turnaround time and weaponisation are found, and the plane is referred for R&D refinement.
December 2013: IOC-II is granted after extensive flight trials at Leh, Jamnagar, Jaisalmer, Gwalior, Pathankot and Goa for weather, armament and weapon delivery capabilities. IAF starts test flights.
December 2015: Final operational clearance expected.
1983: Government moots idea of an indigenous combat aircraft.
1987-88: Project is defined and proposal for prototypes drawn up.
1993: Funds allocated for technology demonstration.
2001: First trial aircraft takes to the skies.
2003: Prime Minister Vajpayee names plane Tejas, meaning radiance.
2013: IAF starts test flights.