Signalling its combat readiness, India's Light Combat Aircraft Tejas MK I was Wednesday given the Final Operational Clearance (FOC).
The formal declaration of FOC of the aircraft was made by the Secretary Defence R&D and Chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation, G Satheesh Reddy.
The handing over of the FOC Certificate and Release to Service Document (RSD) to the Chief of Air Staff was done on the sidelines of the Aero India air show in Bengaluru in the presence of the Defence Secretary, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited chairman and chief of CEMILAC (Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification), among others.
An official release said FOC involves addition of key capabilities to the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft, which in main are Beyond Visual Range Missile capabilities, Air-to-Air Refuelling, Air-to-Ground FOC earmarked weapons and general flight envelope expansion.
The RSD provides the capabilities, features and technologies that FOC standard Aircraft will have on induction into the IAF, it said.
The FOC standard Aircraft drawings have already been handed over to HAL to start production after incorporating key changes over the IOC standard Aircraft, the release said.
Congratulating all the organisations involved in the Tejas project, Reddy said, "This is the best ever moment for any aeronautical engineers and a landmark day for the country's scientists, industry and the air force."
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, he also recalled the contribution of his predecessors and officers involved in the project.
The Initial Operational Clearance took place in 2013 and IOC standard aircraft were inducted into the IAF No 45 Squadron in July 2016, which has successfully flown over 1500 sorties since then.
Calling the FOC a 'major milestone', Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said, "You saw how much the the aircraft could fly, the number of sorties it could generate in exercise Gagan Shakti in April 2018 and in February this year.
"In exercise Vayu Shakti we showed you as to how accurately this aircraft could dispense weapons on the target.
"It can not only sustain a very high sortie rate, but can also carry on very accurate weapon delivery," he said.
"It is a fighter aeroplane and it has to behave like a fighter and it did well both in air to air and air to ground," he said.
To a question about more orders for the aircraft, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said the Request for proposal would beissued for 83 LCA MK 1a, that will continue.
"Not only that we will have to take LCA Mk 2... which in the days ahead will replace the Jaguar, Mirage and MiG 29... after that we will go to Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft," the IAF chief said.
Agencies involved in the design, development and production of Tejas are Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the autonomous society of Defence Research and Development Organisation as the design agency and HAL as the manufacturer.
Many other DRDO laboratories like Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), as well as other agencies like Bharat Electronics Limited, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance, and private sector agencies have contributed in the journey of the LCA.
Calling it a 'big day', HAL Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan said, "We can go ahead with manufacturing of the second set of aircraft with the FOC. The first set of 16 was in the IOC configuration...We are getting ready with jigs and fixtures in place," he said.