New Indian Fighter receives operational clearance
The Indian Air Force has given its new fighter aircraft ‘initial operational clearance’ (IOC). Once its weapons systems are given full clearance, a process expected to take a further two years, it is expected to enter full service with the IAF at some point between 2014 and 2016.
Developed by the Bangalore based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft is the first ever indigenous fighter aircraft project for the Indian Air force, and has taken 21 years to go from drawing board to its current stage of approval. It is expected to gradually replace India’s aging fleet of MIG-21 aircraft, some of which are being refitted as part of a life extension programme.
Navy and two-seater trainer variants of the Tejas are also under construction, with the vast majority of parts and systems having been developed internally. Israeli and French suppliers have been contracted to supply some systems, most notably the targeting pod. Foreign systems such as radar and engine were incorporated into the initial prototypes to make up for the lack of progress in developing home-grown solutions, but these were replaced once initial design problems were surmounted.
The initial cost of the project, 5.8bn rupees, has spiralled to 180bn rupees over the thirty-odd years of the project’s lifetime, with a unit cost for the naval variant at around $30m per unit.