The more-than-three-decade-old indigenous light combat aircraft project hit yet another hurdle when Tejas Mark I failed to get final operational clearance (FOC) in June. FOC is mandatory for a fighter aircraft before it can be bloodied in combat.
The plane was supposed to get FOC in 2012 but several deadlines have passed since then. Tejas is intended to replace MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft in Indian Air Force (IAF) service, 14 squadrons of which are due to be retired by 2025.
The IAF has also not embraced the Tejas Mark I enthusiastically and pointed out several shortcomings, including short combat range, under powered engine and inadequate weapon-carrying capacity. IAF is persisting with the plane because it has no Plan B to fall back on and it is hoping that Tejas can be improved.
At present, only one squadron of the IAF – 45 Squadron – is test flying the Tejas Mark I with less than half the required strength of 18 aircraft per squadron. Read More