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Discussion Starter #1 Gets Initial Operational Clearance

BENGALURU, India — India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft received its much-awaited initial operational clearance (IOC) in Bengaluru on Jan. 10.

Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony handed over the Release to Service Document to Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Marshal P.V. Naik, signaling a new phase in the program.

Tejas will now be flown by IAF pilots before the aircraft gets its Final Operational Clearance and subsequent induction. The IAF says it would raise the squadron in Bengaluru and eventually position Tejas in Sulur in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The first squadron is expected in 2013.

Each of the Mk-1 platforms will cost $42 million and the Mark-II variant will cost $47 million each. The Mk-I is powered by a GE-4040 engine and Mk-II will host a high-thrust GE-414 engine. “This is a momentous occasion ... toward building our own multirole combat aircraft,” Antony says.

Defense Research and Development Organization chief V.K. Saraswat says the level of indigenous Indian content in Tejas is about 65%, but is expected to rise to 75-80% in the future.

Naik says the Tejas is not quite ready to be truly called a fourth-generation aircraft. “I hope that the issues related to wake penetration [testing the ability to cope with turbulence], all-weather clearance [and] lightning clearance will be looked into by June,” he says.

“There are some areas where work still needs to be done, as is the case of all developmental aircraft before induction.

We are confident that the [Aeronautical Development Agency] and [manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.] will set things right by June so that full operational clearance can be attained in a couple of years,” Naik says.
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