LCA Tejas – India’s First Home built Fighter Jet
Manohar Parikkar, who is the former Defense Minister, was responsible to hand over the first series-production Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. On January 17, 2015, he handed LCA to the Indian Air Force. The LCA Mk I was designed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. It is multi-role, single-engine, tail-less delta. LCA is said to be the real ‘battle-ready’ aircraft with Final Operational Clearance (IOC) status. Approximately, 18 months later, the IAF’s first Tejas squadron was formed with just two aircraft at Bengaluru on July 01, 2016. The two aircraft were handled by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. to No 45 Squadron, which was called Flying Daggers. They were handed over at a much-hyped ceremony, which was preceded by inter-faith prayers.
In order to cater for the initial technical glitches that could be experienced, Bengaluru was chosen for the temporary location of the squadron. The IAF’s flight test center, as well as the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment, is also located in Bengaluru. Significantly, the large part of maintenance and operational documentation is still developing. The aircraft is expected to move to the designated IAF base at Sulur near Coimbatore in 2018. IAF is still waiting for the aircraft curiously.
For enhanced maneuverability, this compound delta plan-form is designed with ‘relaxed static stability’. LCA has a secondary ground-attack role as it is originally intended to serve as air superiority aircraft. LCA’s wing and fin are made of carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer. This is one of the smallest and lightest fighter aircraft of its class all over the world. In order to replace its aging MiG-21 fleet, the IAF requires 200 single-seat and 20 twin-seat aircraft and to replace Harriers, Indian Navy (IN) requires 40 for carrier operations. The estimated value of the aircraft is Rs 200-crore. The aircraft was initially expected enter service around 1995. But, the LCA undertook its maiden flight on January 04, 2001. There has been a delay in operationalizing the Tejas, which forced the IAF to extend its older fleet of aircraft, with the inevitable security and flight safety implications.