Tejas gets operation clearance

Bangalore: In a major military aviation milestone, India`s homegrown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas on Monday secured the Initial Operation Clearance taking it a step closer towards induction into the IAF.

In a feat that came a decade after the multi-role LCA took to the skies, Defence Minister A K Antony handed over the IOC certificate to Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik at the HAL Airport here.

Antony said the IOC certification would facilitate delivery of the first lot of 20 production standard aircraft to the IAF with assured safety and specified performance before the end of the year.

"This is only the semi-finals", Antony said, adding the LCA would enhance national security and build the country`s own fighter aircraft capabilities.

The IOC comes after over three decades of LCA development and research spearheaded by Aeronautical Development Agency, surmounting technology denial regimes.

The light-weight Tejas, presently powered by American GE-F404 engine, has been developed from the scratch, putting India in the select club of nations, including US, Russia, France and Britain.

The Flight Test phase of Tejas was initiated in January 2001 and it had completed 1,508 flight tests using various variants, including first two-seater trainer version.

Antony said, "After crossing a number of challenges and accomplishing a significant series of milestones including weapon delivery, in over 1500 sorties, the country is poised for a major turning point with the declaration of the IOC."

The development of the aircraft, primarily to replace the ageing Russian MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter jets, was affected by the US sanctions in 1998 that led to delay in importing some items and developing alternative equipment, since vendor identification and development to production cycle took time.

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