The first Tejas Light Combat Aircraft from the batch of 20 ‘series production’ or full-fledged fighters flew for about 25 minutes on Tuesday.
R.K. Tyagi, Chairman of LCA’s production agency Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., said, “The aircraft is now ready for IAF operations.”
However, for induction into the Air Force, LCA must still pass the final operational clearance (FOC), which has slipped a few months into 2015.
The rest of the series production (SP) aircraft are being built at HAL’s production line here.
P.S. Subrahmanyam, Director of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and also programme director of DRDO’s combat aircraft programme, said the flight signifies the maturity level achieved by the product which was now independent of designers.
The flight of ‘SP1’ was piloted by HAL’s Chief Test Pilot Air Commodore K.A. Muthanna (retired). Officials of the LCA’s user agency IAF, manufacturer HAL, and developers DRDO and ADA witnessed the event.
Within nine months
SP1, Dr. Tyagi said, was achieved within nine months of receiving the penultimate flight worthiness certification, called IOC (initial operational clearance) in December 2013. HAL received the build standard documents a year back.
Mr. Subrahmanyam told The Hindu, “The maiden flight of the first LCA SP1 was perfect; all systems worked well. In fact, in the past couple of weeks that we have been testing it, it has met expectations at all pre-flight stages and the flight itself.”
HAL is producing the SP or full-fledged production batch of 20 LCAs, planned to come out at the rate of at least eight a year initially. The IAF’s initial requirement is put at around 200 LCAs. The SP lot is built to IOC standards. About the FOC, Mr. Subrahmanyam said the LCA was even now a complete product and would be constantly fine-tuned.
HAL said it faced many technological challenges while making the LCA. They include sanctions on import of carbon fibre, establishing the entire tooling and manufacturing capability based on in-house design of tooling and test equipment; and adoption of world-class manufacturing standards.