Bengaluru, June 27: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is all set to commission the first squadron of home-grown Light Combat Aircraft Tejas on July 1.
The low-key event, to be held at the Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) premises, would see the first two Series Production fighters (SP-1, SP-2) being formally being inducted into the No 45 Squadron Flying Daggers. A trainer from the test line (PV-5) could also join the party.
Group Captain M Rangachari is likely to be the first Commanding Officer of the new Tejas Squadron. Both SP-1 and SP-2 would do a sortie during the induction ceremony.
Other key players in the Tejas programme - Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) - would provide the technical and logistical support during the event.
"We have posted seven officers, 42 air warriors and 11 NCs for the Tejas Squadron. These numbers would change after the squadron strength increases in the future," an IAF official said.
"We have asked HAL to hand over the aircraft by June 28 itself," the official added.
According to information available on Monday, Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria will be the Chief Guest. He will have the company of Air Marshal Jasbir Walia, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command (Thiruvananthapuram) and Air Marshal S R K Nair, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command (Bengaluru).
Air Marshal Bhadauria was earlier the Chief Test Pilot and Project Director at National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) handling the Tejas project.
Speaking to OneIndia at Hyderabad recently, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said that the commissioning of Tejas is a major event in the history of IAF.
The IAF Chief had flown the Tejas on May 17 in Bengaluru and even carried out some simulated air to air and air to ground attacks.
"It is my first sortie in Tejas, it is a good aircraft for induction into IAF operations," the CAS had said.
Interestingly, the IAF is keen to have four series production aircraft ahead of the Air Force Day celebrations at Hindon this year on October 8. HAL says efforts are on to improve the production rate so that CAS' wish could be fulfilled.
"There is a shift in the approach of IAF now. We are happy that the Tejas Squadron is being formed. It is a great day for India. We are on a mission. We are all focused," says an HAL official.
HAL has now brought down the equipping cycle for Tejas from 32 months to eight months, which should help rolling out the production variants at a faster rate.
The SP-3 should now have its first flight sometime in July and SP-4 should fly out by September this year. Various stages of work for SP-5 to SP-9 have begun at HAL's LCA Division. The rear fuselage assembly work for SP-9 has also started.
Meanwhile, briefing reporters in Delhi today, the IAF officials said that the No 45 Tejas Squadron will be fully operational by 2018.
(Series to be continued...)