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LCA Tejas: Importance and expectations

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New Delhi, July 02: Considering the massive problem that the IAF is facing of depleting squadron strength and many of its mainstay fighters set to retire by 2025, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is more than just a ingenuously developed fighter.

The Indian Air Force (IAF)'s depleting strength of combat aircraft squadrons is a very serious problem and steps must be taken to address it without any further delay.

IAF is already down to 31 squadrons of fighter aircrafts, as per some reports, against an authorisation of 42. To fight a two-front war, the Indian Air Force needs the optimum strength of 42-plus squadrons.

Tejas was supposed to have played a key role in IAF's scheme things.

In general, armed forces want to reduce reliance on imports which cost the exchequer a lot. It was thought that India's requirement for single engine fighters could be met with LCA Tejas. But due multiple problems encountered during Tejas's development and HAL's failure to meet the delivery deadlines, IAF was forced to look at other foreign aircrafts.

HAL has not left the IAF pleased with the way LCA project kept getting delayed and multiple deadlines that kept getting missed. IAF Chief has not minced words about it.

A file photo

Reports say that Tejas Fighter should have replaced Mig-21 fleet by now. Before the induction of the Su-30 MKI aircraft, Mig-21 was the frontline fighter with the Mig-29.

LCA Tejas was to be the Third Line of fighter for India. At present, the problem is that the production speed of Tejas is just too slow. Given this, India will have to look to buy fighters from foreign manufacturers. There are also AMCA Programme/ HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) of India and MWF/Medium Weight Fighter Programmes that many opine have not yielded desired results.

The development of Kaveri Engine has also not gone as per plans. According to initial plans, it was the Kaveri Engine which was to be fitted in Tejas, but as of now Tejas has an imported GE engine.

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India manufactures helicopters, drones and HAL has quality manufacturing lines to make quality fighters. If Tejas production gets underway in full swing, it would create an aviation ecosystem in the country which may pave way to design and production of much more sophisticated aircrafts. In the nutshell, Tejas was supposed to have served as the first major step by India towards manufacturing of fighters.

As far as meeting the requirements of the IAF is concerned, HAL has been given green signal to start manufacturing of Tejas Mk1 under Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configuration. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has ordered 40 Tejas LCA Mark-I with HAL. 20 Tejas LCA in initial operational configuration - 16 fighters and four trainers - have been produced so far (this was as of January this year).

Fuel tank of Tejas aircraft falls in agriculture field in Tamil Nadu

The weaponised version of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas equipped with capabilities of mid-air refuelling, AESA radar, electronic warfare suites and a variety of other features is likely to be inducted into the Indian Air Force by this year-end.

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