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Tejas gets initial operational clearance

Defence minister, AK Antony did not believe that this day will come. But the country’s very own light combat aircraft (LCA), Tejas, was given the ‘Initial Operational Clearance (IOC II) for induction into service on Friday.’

An effusive Air Chief Marshal, NAK Browne called it a day for rejoice because ‘This day marks a historic milestone and signifies India’s entry into a select group of nations capable of designing their own state-of-the-art fighter aircraft.’

Really, with so much paucity of technological expertise and material deficiencies, few had expected that the LCA would ever fly. The time it was conceived, in 1985, when the Air Staff Requirement (ASR) was finalised, India had barely begun to assemble the Maruti car that would later revolutionise automobile industry in the country. And, the country did not even make a motorised lawn-mower engine, Kaveri, the LCA’s engine was talked about.

So the march of the DRDO was long and arduous. Those were also the days when technology denial regimes of the West, has so many fetters, that even if the decision-makers had eschewed the goal of attaining ‘self reliance,’ they would have been at sea.

Thus more than two decades later, on 20 December, 2013, when the Tejas took to the skies, then naturally Antony or even a Browne would consider history being made in front of them.

In the process, since 2001, when the Tejas LCA flew for the first time, till now, various prototypes had flown more than 2,500 flights. And they have tested many of the parametres like angle of attack, multimode radar, radar warning receiver, hot and cold weather testing, weapons delivery tests, missile firing test etc.

Dr Avinash Chander, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, summed it up well, ‘Those who perform will be asked to perform more. The Team Tejas will have to now sprint the last lap towards FOC (Final Operational Clearance). The FOC will equip Tejas with in-flight refuelling, Beyond Visual Range Missiles, New Close Combat Missile, Gun GSH2, additional weapons and new drop tanks for supersonic flight.’

Chander also defined the missions of the aircraft. ‘I am sure LCA Tejas will be a primary element of the Air Force capability enabling them to carry out air defence and offensive air 
support role.’
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