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HAL Tejas Light Combat Aircraft joins the Indian Air force

Saurav Jha @SJha1618

Updated: December 19, 2013, 6:59 PM IST
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Alright folks, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas Mk-I is all set to achieve Initial Operational Clearance-2 on December 20. Forget the critics, this combat jet is now all set to be flown by serving pilots of the Indian Air force (IAF) who are going to miss the Mig-21 FL a lot less once they get their hands on this baby.

For a mere Rs 7000 crore India now has a credible aerospace industry thanks to the indigenous Tejas programme, which is compelling the Russkis to give us much greater work share in the Sukhoi/HAL fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program especially on the materials side and has even made the cavity searching Americans offer India late entry into the F-35 effort.

The Americans can perhaps soul search for the time being while the Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) celebrates the culmination of one of its much maligned(rather unfairly in my opinion) programs.

Series production has started at eight a year for the 40 aircraft that are on order with 16 aircraft being produced in 2017-18 in the new 28,000 square metre facility set up by HAL to support the Mk-I production line.

Now taking into account the Mig 21 FLs that were retired recently, IAF had some 264 Mig-21s of all types in service at the beginning of 2013. This in my opinion is the minimum number of IAF Tejas that we will end up seeing in service.

While it is generally believed that it is the enhanced Tejas Mk-II that will make up most of this number in the future it could well be that the IAF orders another 20-40 Tejas Mk-I itself while it awaits the Mk-II which will enter the test phase in 2014.

This would of course be subject to the operational performance of the Tejas MK-I which probably will enthuse the IAF sufficiently to push for more. If more orders for the MK-I were indeed to materialize HAL would hit that 16 per year mark for production output a lot sooner. Meanwhile here's a visual tribute to India's second ever indigenous combat jet courtesy DRDO.

Three Tejas flying past in formation

Tejas on approach and landing

Tejas doing aerobatics

More footage from Airshows

Tejas during winter trials in Leh

Tejas takes off at Leh

Tejas laser guided bomb test

First Published: December 19, 2013, 6:59 PM IST

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