The state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) handed over the first two home-grown aircraft to the Air Force as part of a new squadron.
This will be the first version of the jets. The final operation clearance (FOC) of the jet is expected by December this year.
The first squadron with two planes will be raised in Bangalore. Six more planes will be added by December this year, while another six will come by the end of 2017. Whereas, two successive improved versions, having better radars, missiles and greater war-fighting abilities, are slated to be inducted by 2019.
For the next 18 months, it will be based at Bangalore to sort out initial issues with plane-maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) following which it will be stationed at Sulur, near Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu.
“Very soon a small unit of Tejas will be based in an operational area to test its abilities,” IAF officials was quoted as saying, adding that the plane had undertaken 3,000 sorties without an accident. It is a very capable flying machine and any comparison with contemporary jets can be made only after the IAF flies it over the next few months.
The first batch of 20 Tejas jets will be produced by 2018. It will be followed by 20 jets of an improved version.
The second improvement will have 80 jets with production to start in 2019. This will be equipped with better radars (AESA), greater ranger of BVR missiles and advanced short-range missiles.
Off the 43 improvements suggested to HAL, all those related to flight safety have already been sorted out, an IAF official added.
The plane, powered by US engines GE 404, will carry air-to-air missiles, precision guided ammunition, but will not carry a beyond visual range (BVR) missile for at least one year. A BVR missile (a key weapon on modern-day fighter jets) and the mid-air refuelling facility are still being tested and will be incorporated later, IAF sources said today. Having a BVR was one of the requirements for the FOC, but it would be added soon after tests were over.