If no last-minute glitches (from babudom or technical) get onboard, then Tejas will strut its stuff at the 4th edition of Bahrain International Air Show (BIAS), scheduled from January 21-23, 2016. BIAS-2016 is being held at the Sakhir Airbase.
Senior officials of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Ministry of Defence (MoD) will brainstorm one last time in New Delhi on December 9 (Wednesday) to take a final call on Tejas' all-historic out-bound flying mission.
"The green signal will be given on Wednesday after the crucial meeting. There are many nagging issues that need to be sorted out, including which country it would stop over during ferry to Bahrain," says an official.
Two aircraft being readied ahead of the show
As this report goes live on OneIndia, it is confirmed that two Tejas aircraft are being readied in Bengaluru, ahead of its possible historic ferry to Bahrain.
With just over a month left for BIAS-2016, the officials are racing against time to put up a smooth show. Engineers and scientists in ADA and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) are all excited about the bright prospects of Tejas flying at BIAS-2016.
Ahead of ferrying the platforms to Bahrain, the HAL-ADA team members are working on a ‘special software build' to enable the pilots have decided to demonstrate extreme manoeuvres.
On the demonstration menu are ‘Vertical Square' which demands an 8 G envelope, the ‘Knife Edge' and the ‘Opposite U-turns.
The platforms being readied for BIAS-2016 are LSP-3 and LSP-4, out of which one will be doing the flying duties and other on static display.
The SP-1, now under the command of Indian Air Force (IAF) and HAL, is likely to be kept as a stand-by in Bengaluru.
Tejas was on static display at BIAS- 2014, with India's prying plane AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning Control) hitting the skies.
DRDO had then claimed that the products were displayed with ‘the aim of exploring the potential of exporting them to friendly countries in the region.'
During Aero India 2015, Ahmed Al Nemah, then acting Under Secretary for Civil Aviation Affairs, Bahrain Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications, had held discussions with Indian counterparts on BIAS-2016.
The show is expected to see an increased participation by 60 percent since its first edition in 2010.
Tejas flying picks up after a lull period
The Tejas test-flights have started to pick up momentum after months of lull activities owing to technical glitches relating to the undercarriage.
The flight plan was badly hit during the months of May, June, July and August this year. In November bad weather further added to the woes of ADA and HAL. The naval programme too slowed down owing to similar issues.
The combined number of flights (all variants minus SP-1) stands at 2998 as on December 8, 2015, clocking around 1926 hours. The Tejas was out flying at HAL Airport on Tuesday.
"To put in perspective, Year 2015 has not been an inspiring one for Team Tejas. But the programme has seen worst challenges and we are confident of moving ahead," says an official.
With the SP-2 reaching the flight integration stage at HAL, the programme is now heading towards the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) in mid-2016. An impatient IAF is finally on the Squadron formation mode with the DRDO pinning hopes on bagging 100 Tejas MK-I As orders soon.
Flight-testing envelope will be expanded
Ahead of the Bahrain trip, Tejas is expected to expand the flight envelope clearance to 8G and at a higher Alpha of 24 degrees and more.
"These parameters allow the aircraft to perform at higher manoeuvrability. The demonstrations planned for BIAS-2016 will be different from Aero India 2015," says an official.
If mission Bahrain finally gets cleared by Delhi on Wednesday, then DRDO-ADA has to quickly put in place the logistics.
"It's going to be a great effort. Around 200-250 engineers, scientists and ground support teams will have to be positioned at various bases. Tejas will have to be first ferried to an IAF base on Indian border. For re-fuelling and other checks, a country in the Gulf (enroute Bahrain) needs to be identified. A large number of team will also have to be positioned at Bahrain as well," says an official.
For DRDO-ADA-HAL team flying Tejas at BIAS-2016 will be a bold statement. It will also give an opportunity for India to demonstrate (at an international show outside India) its entry into a league of nations capable of building such complex fight jet systems.
"If it happens, then it will be a great pride for India. Remember, it is not built on any stolen or borrowed technology," the official adds.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. Currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow with University of Mysore, he is a Consulting Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)