In a major milestone in the country's military aviation, indigenous supersonic fighter aircraft LCA-Tejas on Friday received the Initial Operational Clearance, that takes it a step closer to its induction into the Indian Air Force squadron.
Marking the event, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne accepted the "Release to Service Document" at a function attended by Defence Minister A K Antony and senior officials of Defence Research and Development Organisation and defence major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited at HAL airport.
"It is a great day for India today...," Antony said in his speech after Tejas aircraft roared over the Bangalore skies, signalling the home grown fighter aircraft's another milestone in its long and arduous three-decades-long journey since the project was first cleared in 1983.
In his remarks, Browne said, "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."
After IOC II, which signifies Tejas is airworthy in different conditions, HAL will go ahead with the Series Production of multi-role fighter which will, however, have to cross several milestones before it receives the Final Operational Clearance.
With the IOC 11, the single engine, light weight and highly agile front line fighter can now be flown by regular IAF pilots for officially undertaking flight evaluation trials in a significant development in the Rs 7,000 crore programme.
LCA, named Tejas by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003, had received the first initial operational clearance in January 2011 when the IAF had expressed various reservations and sought modifications.
The LCA programme, cleared in August 1983 at a cost of Rs 560 crore to replace the ageing MiG-21s in its combat fleet, has missed several deadlines. HAL officials said production facilities have been set up at its facility here and it plans to initially produce eight aircraft per year and increase it to 16 aircraft per year in consultation with the IAF and ministry of defence.
HAL carried out around 500 sorties of the LCA in 2013 and conducted outstation flight trials at Leh, Jamnagar, Jaisalmer, Uttaralai Gwalior, Pathankot and Goa for cold weather, armament and weapon deliveries, MultiMode Radar, Radar Warning Receiver, hot weather and missile firing flight trials.
Tejas has also successfully demonstrated weapon delivery capability during weapon trials at Jamnagar and Jaisalmer, HAL officials said.