The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday inducted two Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) 33 years after the indigenous fighter jet was conceived.The single-engine Tejas, equipped with indigenous fly-by-wire technology , is said to be the world's smallest and lightest supersonic fighter aircraft.
The two aircraft are the first of IAF's new squadron, Flying Daggers, which will eventually have 20 planes by 2018-end. The squadron is the first to be raised under the Southern Command.
Though it has joined IAF , Tejas is not yet combat-ready and is unlikely to be pressed into action in case of any emergency . It is equipped with close-combat air-to-air missiles, helmet-mounted display and precision-guided bombs.
Tejas, which compares with the best in its class, will prove much cheaper than imported jets. It will reduce the country's strategic vulnerability to foreign-weapon supplies being choked in times of conflicts.With a range of 400 km, Tejas cannot carry out strikes inside China or penetrate deep into Pakistan.
It will act as an “interceptor“ against incoming enemy aircraft, and also provide close air support to Army formations on the ground.The final version will incorporate beyond-visual range missiles which India will get in 2017 improved standoff weapons, and air-to-air refuelling capability . IAF also wants an active electronically scanned array radar and advanced electronic warfare suite. The Air Force will begin to get the Tejas it really wants only by 2020.
Flying Daggers will remain in Bengaluru for about two years before moving to its permanent base in Sulur in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore district in 2018.
HAL is expected to deliver the next two aircraft in the next few months and another three by mid-2017. Sources in the defence PSU said the third aircraft will be delivered by the end of next month. There was no confirmation on when the fourth would be delivered.
IAF had been talking about inducting the aircraft since 2011.However, multiple shortcomings, changes in the requirements and other delays pushed the induction date.