Bengaluru, Feb 19: Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said on Thursday that the Indian Air Force (IAF) would begin the Squadron formation of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas after receiving third series production (SP) variant.
It was for the first time that an IAF Chief spoke comprehensively about the home-grown fighter jet's squadron formation. "We have no doubt about the capability of the aircraft," Raha said.
"The first two series production aircraft (SP-1 and SP-2) have some slight variations and from SP-3 onwards we will have them entering into the Squadron. The first squadron will consist of aircraft from SP-3 to SP-6," the Air Chief said.
As reported by this Correspondent earlier, the IAF will form the No 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers for Tejas. The same squadron last flew the MiG 21 Bison aircraft operating from Naliya in Gujarat.
The Tejas Squadron will be first raised in Bengaluru and later will be positioned at the Sulur Air Force base, near Coimbatore.
Full squadron strength by end of 14 5 year plan
Raha said the IAF would achieve the status of having required total operational squadron of 42 by the end of the 14th Five Year Plan. "We will form the second Tejas squadron when we receive the aircraft from the Final Operational Clearance block," he said.
The Air Chief said confirmed that in addition to the first order of 40 Tejas aircraft, 80 more will be ordered (Mark II version). He said the induction of the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) will play a crucial role in achieving the full operational capabilities.
On the sticky MMRCA (Rafale) deal, the Chief said that the Cost Negotiations Committee (CNC) is currently looking into the issues involved in the deal. "IAF needs MMRACAs and I am not saying it has to be Rafale.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)