With the twin objective of giving an impetus to an across-the-board advancement of India’s domestic aviation capability and the need to replace the aging fleet of MiG-21s, the government of India had launched the ambitious LCA (Light Combat Aircraft)programme in the early eighties. Around four decades later on February 20, 2019, LCA Tejas- India’s first self-made fighter jet got the final operational clearance (FOC) from the country’s military aviation regulator- CEMILAC, thus passing the final test for its induction into the Indian Air Force.
Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, as reported by NDTV, said: “You saw how much the aircraft could fly, the number of sorties it could generate in exercises ‘Gagan Shakti’ in April 2018 in ‘Vayu Shakti’ in February this year.” The Chief of the AIr Staff was referring to the induction of India’s first fully-weaponised fighter jet as a “major milestone” on the occasion of India’s biennial air show-Aero India 2019 in Bengaluru.
As per the sources, since the start of the production to its induction into the Air Force, the LCA has faced additional delays mainly due to requests of upgradation to existing systems.
Finally, it was the joint efforts of three key government companies –Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) and ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) under the Ministry of Defence which led to the completion of the LCA project.
As a matter of fact, for the first time in 2013 CEMILAC had given the initial operational clearance (IOC) to LCA Tejas paving the way for its induction into no. 45 The squadron of IAF (Flying Daggers) in July 2006 to prepare it for combat operations.
Below an attempt has been made to highlight some of the key facts and characteristics of the ‘Tejas’ jet:
LCA Tejas is the smallest lightweight, multi-role, single-engine tactical fighter aircraft in the world. The fighter jet is equipped with a head-up display (HUD)and two multifunction displays (MFDs) just to provide required information to the pilot. Through HUD critical information required by the pilot can be displayed mainly in case of close combat situations.
Fitted with General Electric’s F404-GE-IN20 turbofan engine. It was after the failure of indigenously developed Kaveri engine, the GE’s turbofan engine was used. The GE engine has a maximum weight of 1035 kg.
3-Advanced multimode radar
The multi-role radar on LCA Tejas has been jointly developed by Indian and Israeli technological tie up. Being the primary targeting sensor the radar facilitates tracking and targeting of multiple targets. The radar also facilitates all-weather use of a variety of air to air and air to surface weaponry. In case if the need arises the aircraft can also be equipped with additional sensors for navigation and reconnaissance purposes.
4- Landing gear
Tejas is equipped with hydraulic retractable tricycle-type landing gear developed by HAL, which envisages two single, inward-retracting main wheels and a steerable twin-wheel forward-retractable nose gear. Titanium half alloy tubes are used for hydraulic power transmission.
5- Features of the stealth fighter jet
This indigenously developed aircraft is equipped with a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system. Owing to its small size and the extensive use of carbon composites its radar cross-section is very less compared to other aircraft like MiG-29 and F-16.
6-Named by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee
It was the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who christened the Light Combat Aircraft as ‘Tejas’ meaning radiance. Vajpayee while witnessing the display of LCA in May 2003 at Bangluru chose the name from the 20 Sanskrit selected for India’s first indigenously developed fighter jet.