Indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft 'Tejas' will be inducted into the Indian Air Force this year, Defence Research and Development Organisation chief V K Saraswat has said.
"With 'Tejas' completing almost 1,855 flying hours (flight tests) and all problems it encountered during the initial operational clearance having been solved, it is ready to enter into the final operational clearance phase. With production also having taken off at HAL... we are now at the verge of writing history as far as aeronautics is concerned," he said in Hyderabad.
"LCA will be inducted this year in the armed forces where our own squadrons of Air Force will be flying this aircraft," he said.
The DRDO director general was speaking after inaugurating the 'Aerospace Luminary Lecture Series' organised by Hyderabad chapter of Aeronautical Society of India on Saturday night.
Referring to the recent successful maiden flight of the Naval variant of LCA, Saraswat said, "The first flight trial of LCA Navy achieved capability, particularly on take off and landing, from an aircraft carrier. The Naval variant will certainly be a force multiplier for Indian Navy."
The LCA has been conceived and designed by DRDO's Aeronautical Development Agency and manufactured at Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
Saraswat said April 2012 will go down in the history as a historic month as it saw successful launches of Agni-V, RISAT-I (radar imaging satellite) and first flight trial of LCA Navy.
India today has a potent long-range ballistic missile system, said Saraswat, who is also the scientific advisor to defence minister. Nuclear capable Agni-V ballistic missile, with a strike range of over 5,000 km, was successfully test-fired on April 19.
Agni-V is a game changer in terms of technology, the DRDO chief said, adding, "it has taken the country to a higher pedestal in terms of deterrence."
"We have joined a select group of countries who have this technology and capability," Saraswat said. "Agni-V has allowed us to take this technology to higher level, be it for anti-satellite mission or launch of satellites on short notice.
"However, there is still a long way to go for programmes related to UAVs, advance medium combat aircraft and a variety of long-range missiles, he said.
There was a need for almost 400-500 engineers every year to accelerate and complete the ongoing projects/programmes, the top defence scientist said.
"If we don't have that kind of manpower... we are going to lag behind. The moment your are not in a position to provide systems on right time, with right quality and right numbers, there will be pressure on us to allow their imports. And once you have imports, our goal of self-reliance will take a beating," Saraswat noted."Our goal is to provide self-reliance in the area of aerospace, aircraft and defence equipment. If we can have great designers and production centres, I think this country can become self-reliant and master any technology."