The Tejas moment

At 10.30am Monday, all eyes will be trained on Bangalore’s skies as India’s first homegrown aircraft powers out on its maiden journey. The indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), vilified for more than 20 years, will take off on completely Indian wings and many prayers. A historic moment for the Indian aerospace industry, and a proud day for aerospace city, Bangalore. The aircraft, which will cost Rs 17,000 crore by the end of 2017-18, will be flown by a test pilot and is likely to be in the air for 20-35 minutes. India’s first supersonic fighter aircraft, nurtured in Bangalore, will be flying on an American engine. Bangalore is central to its development — the aircraft was conceived, designed, developed, tested and certified by Aeronautical Development Agency, and manufactured and assembled by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, both headquartered in the city. Scepticism has been high because the project, dreamed of in 1983, took 27 long years to complete. Aerospace scientists contend that the technology demonstration was okayed only in 1993, while funding came as late as in 2001. Scientists admit that while the avionics, flight control system, electronics, airframe and aircraft design is Indian, the engine is a GE from the US. It’s a regret they bear stoically, and promise that the LCA will be entirely Hindustani in the next five years.
LCA is India’s own first supersonic fighter aircraft. It is the world’s smallest and lightest multi-role combat aircraft; meant to replace MiG-21s and MiG-23s. First supersonic fighter took to the skies on Jan 4, 2001, at Yelahanka Air Force Station, Bangalore. First flight was escorted by two IAF Mirage 2000s, one of which had IAF chief of staff A Y Tipnis on board. LCA has no tailplanes or foreplanes; has a vertical fin. Highly manoeuvrable, suited for dogfight . Has short take-off and landing. Body is mostly made of composite materials and lithium-aluminium alloys. Titanium also used. Has one of the best multimode radar in the world. Can carry air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, variety of guided/unguided bombs and rockets, and 4,000kg in payload in its seven hard points. Engine currently being used is General Electric GE F404 engine. 1,452 flight tests till January 2011. It is 70-80% indigenous .The foreign/imported component involves engine, radar, some navigation technologies, some displays Design, development, testing, certification and mastery of the system engineering involved in critical technologies is completely Indian .Will go 100% indigenous in five years .Higher variant by 2014 - LCA Mark II .200 LCAs suggested for IAF. Order for 40 received. 20 will go in soon, 20 three years later In 2011, ready for initial combat flight

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