Tamil Nadu

IAF operationalises second LCA squadron, inducts first LCA Tejas in FOC standard

The Final Operational Clearance version of LCA Tejas Mk-1

The Final Operational Clearance version of LCA Tejas Mk-1   | Photo Credit: M. Periasamy

The first Light Combat Aircraft Tejas Mk-1 was formally inducted into service on Wednesday in a function held at Air Force Station, Sulur near Coimbatore

The Indian Air Force (IAF) formally inducted into service the first Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk-1 in Final Operational Clearance (FOC) standard on Wednesday, and operationalised its second LCA squadron No. 18 ‘Flying Bullets’.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria, received the first FOC standard LCA from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in a function held at Air Force Station, Sulur near Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu.

“We are proud to deliver a much lethal aircraft than the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) block. Apart from all the capabilities of IOC aircraft, the FOC variant additionally comes with air to air refuelling capability, close combat gun, additional drop tanks, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile capability, updated avionics and flight control software suite,” HAL Chairman R. Madhavan said in a statement.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria (left) handing over a representational key of the first LCA Tejas Mk-1 fighter to Group Captain Manish Tolani, Commanding Officer of No. 18 Squadron at Air Force Station, Sulur.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria (left) handing over a representational key of the first LCA Tejas Mk-1 fighter to Group Captain Manish Tolani, Commanding Officer of No. 18 Squadron at Air Force Station, Sulur.   | Photo Credit: M. Periasamy

 

A ‘Sarva Dharma Pooja’ (inter-faith prayer) was performed before the induction of the new fighter into the force. Before the ceremony, ACM Bhadauria flew a sortie on an Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft from the No. 45 squadron ‘Flying Daggers’.

The handover and induction of the LCA FOC aircraft got delayed due to COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions. Four more FOC aircraft in advanced stages of production and testing and are expected to join the squadron soon, HAL said. The FOC certificate for the LCA was handed over during the ‘Aero India’ air show at Bengaluru in February last year.

Praising the latest LCA as 'best-in-class', ACM Bhadauria said that combat capabilities of the aircraft and the two squadrons will become core of the strength of Air Force.   

Mr. Madhavan said that HAL was expecting cabinet clearance for the deal of 83 LCA Mk-1A fighters by the third quarter of this year. The clearance was expected by August which got delayed due to COVID-19 situation, he said, adding that HAL was looking at exports of LCA and some countries had expressed interests. 

Girish S. Deodhare, Programme Director (Combat Aircraft) and Director of Aeronautical Development Agency, said that LCA Mk-2, a bigger variant aircraft with bigger engine, was under design stage and test trials of the aircraft were expected to happen by 2022. 

"Already a lot of designing has been done and all the specs have been frozen. Air Force requirements have now included. With that we are continuing the detailed design and realizing the aircraft," he said.

The first LCA squadron with IOC standard aircraft was operationalised in July 2016. IAF has so far placed orders for 20 IOC standard aircraft and 20 FOC standard aircraft including eight twin seater trainers. The trainer variant of LCA have not been handed over to the IAF yet.

The No. 18 Squadron was originally formed on April 15, 1965 and got number plated on April 15, 2016 after the Mig-27 aircraft it was flying then were retired. The Squadron was resurrected on April 1 this year, at Sulur. The No. 18 squadron saw active combat during the 1971 war and Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon was posthumously awarded the highest gallantry award ‘Param Vir Chakra’.

There is also an order for 83 LCA in MK-1A configuration with four major and several minor upgrades which ACM Bhadauria termed a ‘high priority’ in a recent conversation with The Hindu. The deal, estimated to be worth around 38,000 crore, is expected to be signed in the next three months.

HAL is setting up a second assembly line in collaboration with the private industry to increase the production rate of the LCA from current eight to 16 meet the delivery timelines.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 1:40:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/iaf-operationalises-second-lca-squadron-inducts-first-lca-tejas-in-foc-standard/article31685568.ece

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