Tejas, indigenous light combat aircraft, gets FOC! HAL to roll out new LCA by year-end; what it means for IAF

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New Delhi | Published: February 22, 2019 10:59:35 AM

A HAL official told Financial Express Online that the FOC version of the Tejas Mk I will be ready for roll out by year-end.

TEJASTejas. (File photo)

Tejas MK I gets Final Operational Clearance (FOC) at Aero India 2019! In a boost to Indian Air Force’s (IAF) defence preparedness, the homegrown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas has been granted FOC. Tejas is an indigenous combat aircraft that has long been in the making and with the FOC, IAF will get much-needed firepower. Conceptualised by DRDO and manufactured by HAL, the Tejas aircraft is expected to plug the gap in IAF’s combat power. The FOC certificate and Release to Service Document have also been handed over to IAF chief BS Dhanoa at Aero India 2019. Interestingly, Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat flew in the LCA Tejas for the first time at Aero India yesterday and called it a “wonderful aircraft”.

A HAL official told Financial Express Online that the FOC version of the Tejas Mk I will be ready for roll out by year-end. According to the order placed with the defence PSU, it has to manufacture 40 LCA Tejas aircraft for the IAF. Out of these, the first 20 will be the IOC (Initial Operational Clearance) and the other 20 will be of the FOC category. The Tejas MkI FOC version has several additions to the IOC one such as; beyond visual range missile capabilities, flight envelope expansion, air-to-air refuelling and air-to-ground FOC earmarked weapons. The IOC was granted to the Tejas Mk I in 2013 and the first such LCA were handed over to the IAF in 2016. Since then IAF’s Squadron Number 45 has flown over 1,500 sorties successfully of the IOC Tejas, says the Ministry of Defence.

IAF chief BS Dhanoa has indicated that the Tejas MK I is combat ready. “The proof of the pudding is in eating. The aircraft flew a number of sorties during the Gagan Shakti in 2018 and at the recently concluded Vayu Shakti the aircraft’s accuracy in dispensing weapons on target was demonstrated,” Dhanoa told reporters at Aero India. Tejas, a light combat multi-role single-engine aircraft, boasts of several features such as; multi-mode radar, glass cockpit, fly-by-wire flight control system, use of composite materials, lightweight, highly agile.

Now, IAF is awaiting the Tejas Mk I-A, which would in the true sense give it better combat power, say defence experts. The IAF will soon issue of an RFP (Request For Proposal) for around 83 Tejas aircraft of the Mk I-A category. Tejas Mk 2 is also likely to be bought by the IAF.

Ravi Gupta, a former DRDO scientist told Financial Express Online, “In simple terms, the achievement of FOC implies that India has its own indigenous combat ready multi-role LCA, that is among the best in its class, the lightest but with the capability of carrying and delivering with precision tons of devastating loads.” “It (Tejas) will be a great asset for any Air Force. It will allow our IAF to fill a long-existing gap in its warfighting capabilities,” Gupta said.

Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur VM (Retd) believes that FOC is a good step towards providing IAF with the needed combat power. “The FOC Tejas is much better than the IOC version with the most significant addition being that of BVR missile power,” he told Financial Express Online. “But more importantly, IAF needs Tejas Mk I-A which is a project that we should look to expedite,” he added.

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