Bangalore, Jan 10 (ANI): India's own first supersonic multi-role combat aircraft Tejas, meant to replace MiG 21s and MiG 23s, was handed to the Air Force on Monday after initial operational clearance.
The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), considered to be the world's smallest military aircraft with a single seat, is among top eight aircraft in the world in technological design and performance terms.
Tejas, which was under development for nearly 28 years and beat US sanctions, achieved the significant milestone today when Defence Minister A K Antony gave the release to service certificate to Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik.
Congratulating the Tejas team, Antony said: "A state of the art indigenous combat aircraft could go a long way in enhancing national security and pride of the nation towards building our own combat aircraft."
Antony also said that the government has cleared the next lot of 20 series production aircrafts.
He also said that there is more scope of supplying more MK2 variants of Tejas to the Navy and the Air Force.
Meanwhile, Air Chief Marshal Naik said: "Tejas taking wing is a dream come true for all of us. It marks successful fusion of our R and D and scientific capabilities."
He added that full operational clearance to the Tejas will be given in couple of years.
The handing over of the service certificate enables Indian Air Force fighter pilots to fly the LCA for final operational clearance by 2012.
The LCA has been developed by the state-run Aeronautical Defence Agency (ADA) and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) in Bangalore. The project was started in 1983 with a budget of Rs. 560 crore and was named 'Tejas' in 2004.
The project was delayed due to various factors, including sanctions by the US in wake of nuclear tests conducted by India in May 1998, which resulted in rise of cost to Rs.5,778 crore from the initial estimate of Rs.3,300 crore.
The F404-GE-IN20 engine from the US-based General Electric powers the fighter, as the indigenously developed Kaveri engine is still undergoing advance trials.
ADA director PS Subramanyam said that they are developing a new variant of the present LCA by 2014-15 and the fighter jet will be fully indigenous in five years time.
The HAL is manufacturing eight aircraft for clearance flights and will take up the IAF's initial order to deliver 20 jets to form the first Tejas squadron, which will be based at the Sulur air base near Coimbatore.
The Air Force has also placed an additional order of 20 more Tejas for the second squadron in 2010. It will be raised at Kayathir near Tuticorin. The IAF may finally have around 200 LCAs (10 squadrons) in its fleet. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)