The home grown Light Combat Aircraft ( LCA) Tejas has taken one more step towards operational clearance. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has for the first time successfully tested the air to air refuelling of the aircraft. This operation was carried out on Wednesday with the help of I1-78 MKI tanker. According to IAF release, mid-air refuelling is one of the critical requirements for the Light Combat Aircraft to achieve final operational clearance.
“The success of these trials is a major leap for the indigenous fighter, thus enhancing its mission capability by increasing its range and payload. The ability to carry out air-to-air refuelling is one of the critical requirements for the Light Combat Aircraft to achieve final operational clearance,” the IAF said in a release. Preparation for conducting the operation was planned well in advance, The tanker was launched from its base in Agra while the fighter was launched from Gwalior. As per pre-decided plan, the specially modified Tejas aircraft carried out a series of test profiles including a ‘Dry Contact’ with the tanker. A second Tejas aircraft flying in formation was used to observe the exercise closely. “All flight parameters of Tejas aircraft were transmitted live to a ground control unit set-up at the Gwalior airbase, wherein Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) scientists constantly monitored the technical parameters of the mission. “Prior to the test flight, extensive ground trials were conducted in all possible conditions under the supervision of ADA scientists,” the IAF said.
Nine more tests are to be held in the coming months. They include wet tests, actual transfer of fuel from the tanker aircraft to the fighter jet. The fighter jet, part of the ‘Flying Daggers’ of the 45 Squadron, was formally operationalised at a ceremony attended by Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (Southern Air Command) RKS Bhadauria.
Brief on LCA Tejas
India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has several unique features. The aircraft, together with its variants, is the smallest and lightest Multi-Role Supersonic Fighter Aircraft of its class. It is a single engine run aircraft. It has compound-delta-wing. This tailless aircraft is designed and developed by ADA with HAL as the principal partner along with DRDO, CSIR, BEL, DGAQA, IAF & IN to meet diverse needs of the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
Important dates in LCA’s operational history
July 1, 2016:
The formation of the first Tejas-equipped squadron started in July 2011. The Tejas entered service with No. 45 Squadron IAF (Flying Daggers) based at the Yelahanka Air Base at Bangalore on 1 July 2016 before being moved to Sulur Air Force Station in Coimbatore. The squadron will initially have four aircraft. The IAF’s Aircraft and System Testing establishment will receive four aircraft already built including two development aircraft.
January 21, 2016
The Tejas made its international debut on 21 January 2016, when two aircraft flew in the Bahrain International Air Show.
On 21 November 2016, the Defence Ministry said that they’re proposing to have the Tejas exported with preliminary talks taking place with some friendly countries.
In June 2017, Hindustan Aeronautics stated that it expects to have delivered 123 Tejas aircraft to the Indian Air Force by 2024–25. HAL outlined a three–pronged approach to accelerate aircraft production. It will build an additional assembly line, reuse the Hawk assembly line, and outsource major components to the private sector.