Defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday handed over the first indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas to Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha in Bengaluru.
Marking the formal handing over of the multi-role fighter built by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) under the limited series production of 20 aircraft (Mark-1 version), the minister presented technical documents to Raha in the presence of HAL chairman RK Tyagi.
The media was, however, not allowed to cover the event, which took place during Parrikar's maiden official visit after he took over as defence minister on November 10 last year.
Calling upon HAL and the Defence Research and Development Oraganisation (DRDO), whose aeronautics agencies took over three decades in developing the LCA, to think out of the box to meet the timeline challenges for delivering the aircraft to IAF, Parrikar told officials to give more thrust on research and technology.
"Although one does not achieve everything overnight, we can achieve the results better by modifying our work culture and adopting latest technology and tools," Parrikar said.
Noting that LCA was the need of the hour, given the operational requirements of the IAF, Raha said the fourth-generation fighter would be inducted into the fleet along with other aircraft to form the first Tejas squadron.
Admitting that Tejas was only 60% indigenous till date, Tyagi said the company would roll out six aircraft in the ensuing fiscal (2015-16).
As a single-engine multi-role supersonic fighter, Tejas is set to replace the IAF's ageing Russian-made MiG-21 fleet when inducted in six squadrons after defence regulator -- Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (Cemilac) certifies it for Final Operational Clearance (FOC) later this year.
The homegrown fighter received the initial operational clearance (IOC-2) in December 2013 for evaluation by IAF ace pilots on various parameters.
Weighing 8.5 tonnes, Tejas can carry three tonnes of weapons, including air-to-air missiles, laser guided bombs, guns, conventional/retarded bombs and beyond visual range missiles.
Tejas is also fitted with digital fly-by-wire system, flight control systems and open architecture computer.
Each squadron will have 20 fighters and will be based at the Sulur Air Force base near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
In the design and development stage, HAL produced 15 LCA aircraft -- seven in the limited series production, two technology demonstrators, three fighter prototype, two trainer prototype and one naval prototype.
Earlier, Parrikar was treated to a flying display of Tejas, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) Hawk, being built by HAL under licensed production from British aerospace major BAE Systems Plc.
The IAF signed contract in 2006 for delivery of 20 Tejas (Mark 1) to form its squadron in the IOC configuration and the build standard documents for the fleet were finalised in September 2013.