Signalling its combat readiness, India's Light Combat Aircraft Tejas MK I was on Wednesday was given the Final Operational Clearance (FOC). The formal declaration of FOC of the aircraft was made by the Secretary Defence R&D and Chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation, G Satheesh Reddy.
The handing over of the FOC Certificate and Release to Service Document (RSD) to the Chief of Air Staff was done on the sidelines of the Aero India air show here in the presence of the Defence Secretary, HAL chairman and chief of CEMILAC (Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification), among others.
An official release said FOC involves addition of key capabilities to the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft, which in main are Beyond Visual Range Missile capabilities, Air-to-Air Refuelling, Air-to-Ground FOC earmarked weapons and general flight envelope expansion.
Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat waves as he is about to take off for a sortie in the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft - Tejas in Bengaluru. (Photo: ANI)
The RSD provides the capabilities, features and technologies that FOC standard Aircraft will have on induction into the IAF, it said. The FOC standard Aircraft drawings have already been handed over to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to start production after incorporating key changes over the IOC standard Aircraft, the release said.
Congratulating all the organisations involved in the Tejas project, Reddy said: "This is the best ever moment for any aeronautical engineers and a landmark day for the country's scientists, industry and the air force." Speaking to reporters here, he also recalled the contribution of his predecessors and officers involved in the project.
The Initial Operational Clearance took place in 2013 and IOC standard aircraft were inducted into the IAF No 45 Squadron in July 2016, which has successfully flown over 1500 sorties since then.
Calling the FOC a "major milestone", Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said, "you saw how much the aircraft could fly, the number of sorties it could generate in exercise Gagan Shakti in April 2018 and in February this year. In exerciseVayu Shakti we showed you as to how accurately this aircraft could dispense weapons on the target. It can not only sustain a very high sortie rate but can also carry on very accurate weapon delivery," he said.
"It is a fighter aeroplane and it has to behave like a fighter and it did well both in air to air and air to ground," he said. To a question about more orders for the aircraft, Dhanoa said the Request for proposal would beissued for 83 LCA MK 1a, that will continue.
"Not only that we will have to take LCA Mk 2... which in the days ahead will replace the Jaguar, Mirage and MiG 29... after that we will go to Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft. Agencies involved in the design, development and production of Tejas are Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the autonomous society of DRDO as the design agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as the manufacturer.
Many other DRDO laboratories like ADE, GTRE, LRDE, CEMILAC, as well as other agencies like BEL, CSIR, DG-AQA, and private sector agencies have contributed in the journey of the LCA. Calling it a "big day", HAL Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan said "We can go ahead with manufacturing of the second set of aircraft with the FOC.
The first set of 16 was in the IOC configuration...We are getting ready with jigs and fixtures in place," he said.