India's fighter jet TEJAS at its Final stages: Antony
Bangalore: The indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas would be a reality at last and will soon join the Indian Air Force (IAF), Defence Minister A.K. Antony said here Tuesday.
'I can declare that LCA is going to be a reality, at last. I can tell you with confidence that by December 2010, the initial operational clearance is going to take place and the final operational clearance by the end of 2012,' Antony told reporters.
Scoffing at skeptics for writing off the ambitious project as a total failure, Antony said he was convinced of the multi-role supersonic aircraft after witnessing a flying display of its first version of the limited series production, its fifth prototype (PV-V) and its trainer variant earlier in the day.
'Today is a historic day, as the LCA achieved a milestone with a spectacular performance of its variants. I know the project has still to go a long way. When I took over three years ago, there was skepticism about its success. It has completed trials in all weather conditions with over 1,000 sorties,' Antony noted.
The state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has already started the limited series production to deliver eight Tejas fighters to the Indian Air Force,which has placed an order for 20 aircraft (one squadron).
'The defence acquisition council (DAC) has cleared another 20 for the IAF. Very soon, we will take it to the cabinet for final clearance. In the years to come, we will be able to induct more squadrons of LCA,' Antony said.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has recently cleared Rs.8,000 crore (Rs.80 billion) for further development of the LCA's air version, navy version and a new engine, as the prototypes and the eight aircraft under production use GE-404 engines.
'At last, India can also be proud that we will also have our own fighter aircraft. Everybody is convinced of the LCA success. I extend my total support to the LCA team,' Antony added.
According to the state-run Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which designed and developed the LCA with HAL as its principal partner, Tejas is the smallest, lightest, multirole supersonic fourth generation aircraft in the world.
'The LCA is in the critical phase of weapon carriage and release and flight envelope expansion towards initial operational clearance. It is expected to be inducted into IAF by 2014,' an ADA official told IANS on the margins of the event.
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