After more than a long three-decade wait, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will begin the induction of its first squadron of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft on Friday.
State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will hand over the first two Tejas aircraft to IAF on July 1. This will make up the 'Flying Daggers 45' - the name of the first squadron of the LCA which will be based in Bangalore for the first two years before being moved to Sulur in Tamil Nadu.
The IAF is targeting six aircraft this financial year and about eight in the next. IAF sources said Tejas will feature in combat plan of the IAF next year and will be deployed in forward bases also.
IAF had highlighted 43 deficiencies related to maintenance and easier operation which have been reduced to 19. Sources asserted that Tejas is "one of the exceptional single-engine fighter aircraft in the world".
Asked how the aircraft fared in comparison to JF 17, jointly developed and built by Pakistan and China, the IAF said it was "better". "It is a better one since it is mostly made of composite which makes it light and very agile. It also comes with smart ammunition and bombs which help it to hit targets in a precise manner," a source said.
Sources also said that Tejas will replace the MiG 21s and will be used for air-to-air fight and ground attack and could also be a compliment to bigger fighter planes such as Su 30 MKI.
All squadrons of Tejas will be made up of 20 planes in total, including four in reserve. As per the plan, while 20 would be inducted under the "Initial Operational Clearance", another 20 will be inducted later with Beyond Visual Range Missile (BVR) and some other features.
The upgraded version of Tejas, with Active Electrically Scanned Array Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare Suite, mid-air refuelling capacity and advanced beyond the vision range missiles, will cost between Rs. 275 crore and Rs. 300 crore.
The IAF plans to induct over 80 aircraft with better specifications known as Tejas 1A.
Tejas is also equipped with helmet-mounted display and fly-by-wire, a semi-automatic and computer-regulated system for controlling the flight of an aircraft or spacecraft which makes it a 4.5 generation plane.
The IAF currently flies with 33 squadrons as against the sanctioned strength of 42.