IAF deploys Tejas jets in western sector
The Indian Air Force has moved some of its Tejas light combat aircraft from their home base in Sulur in Tamil Nadu to the western sector to strengthen its operational readiness against Pakistan amid border tensions with China in eastern Ladakh, people familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.
The IAF had earlier moved some of its frontline fighters such as Sukhoi-30s and upgraded MiG-29s to the Ladakh sector from other bases as part of India’s overarching plan to strengthen its military posture in the region where heightened tensions between India and China have upset the bilateral relationship, they said.
In July, defence minister Rajnath Singh had asked the IAF to be prepared for any eventuality, saying the rapid deployment of aerial assets at forward locations in eastern Ladakh had sent a strong message to the adversary. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria then said his force was poised to counter any aggressive action by the adversary.
The IAF has so far ordered 40 LCAs split in the initial operational clearance (IOC) version and the more advanced and final operational clearance (FOC) configuration.
The Tejas jets moved to the western sector are from the first LCA squadron consisting of IOC aircraft. The IAF’s first Tejas squadron was raised at the Sulur air base in 2016 with two aircraft and more planes joined the fleet progressively. The raising of the second LCA squadron in Sulur began this May.
The Tejas LCA jets from Sulur had taken part in Gaganshakti-2018 exercise that sought to test the IAF’s readiness and stamina for a two-front war with China and Pakistan.
In March, the defence ministry gave a green light for the purchase of 83 LCA Mk-1A advanced Tejas jets from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The deal worth Rs 38,000 crore is expected to be signed by the year-end.
The LCA Mk-1A will come with additional improvements over the FOC aircraft, making it the most advanced Tejas variant so far. The Mk-1A variant is expected to come with digital radar warning receivers, external self-protection jammer pods, active electronically scanned array radar, advanced beyond-visual-range missiles and significantly improved maintainability.
HAL is expected to deliver the first Mk-1A jet to the IAF three years after the deal is signed.
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