Bangalore: The idea of an indigenously designed and built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was first mooted back in 1983. 30 years on, the fighter is still not part of the Indian Air Force - but Tejas, as the aircraft is called, took a step closer on Friday with the second Initial Operational Clearance certificate being handed over in Bangalore. This, after a flight witnessed by Defence Minister AK Antony and Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne. (See Pictures)
Tejas has had 2450 sorties - including almost 500 this year alone. But this one was special. As the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas took off from the HAL airport in Bangalore city, it was making a point - that the aircraft was ready for its second Initial Operation Clearance. But the delays in the project could not be ignored.
Mr Antony said, "During these years, there was many occasions of frustration, setbacks, all around criticism - 'Why this wasteful project should continue? It won't succeed. Abandon it - don't waste national money' - Last seven years, I also had my share of criticism. Now we can declare, we are nearing success. Not 100 per cent, some more."
The Air Chief who had expressed clear reservations about Tejas at its first operational clearance flight back in 2011, said he was satisfied now that the aircraft would soon be ready for induction into the Indian Air Force.
Chief Air Marshal NAK Browne said, "In 2011 there were a few things we had to do to correct certain design changes. All that has been done now. Now we are fully satisfied with the Initial Operation Clearance."
The supersonic fighter has been described as pilot-friendly. One of the men who had tested the aircraft during its development, Air Commodore KA Muthana told NDTV, "I am thrilled. So far we have been the only organisation to fly this lovely machine and today we are going to dedicate it to the rest of the air warriors in this country. It's a pleasure to fly."
The final operational clearance is expected by the end of 2014 and Tejas should be part of the Air Force by 2015.