LCA Mk-1A aircraft completes first flight in Bengaluru

The first Tejas LCA Mk-1A aircraft on Thursday made its maiden flight from a Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) facility in Bengaluru, and the country can look forward to its early induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF), state-run plane-maker HAL said.

Noteworthy,  HAL is an aerospace and defence company, owned by the government of India.

The company develops, designs, manufactures, and supplies aircraft, helicopters, avionics, and communications equipment for military and civil markets.

“HAL achieved this significant production milestone with concurrent design and development, amid major supply chain challenges in the global geo-political environment subsequent to the contract in February 2021,” HAL chief CB Ananthakrishnan said.

To be noted that the IAF ordered 83 Mk-1A fighters for Rs.48,000 crore in February 2021 and plans to buy 97 more Mk-1As at a cost of around Rs.67,000 crore.

The first aircraft was to be delivered to IAF by March 31, but there is some delay as some key certifications are still pending, as first reported by HT on March 25.

HAL thanked the defence ministry, the IAF, the Aeronautical Development Agency, the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification and other agencies that have contributed to the programme’s success.

“With the continued support of these stakeholders, the country can look forward to early induction of the Tejas Mk-1A by the IAF and more numbers through the three lines of production established at HAL,” the company said in a statement.

The Tejas Mk-1A will have an advanced electronic radar, superior warfare capabilities, and improved maintenance features, it added.

LCA Mk-1A is an advanced variant of the LCA Mk-1, which has already been inducted by IAF.

Furthet, it is set to emerge as the cornerstone of IAF’s combat power in the coming decade and beyond.

IAF, the world’s fourth largest air force, is expected to operate around 350 LCAs (Mk-1, Mk-1A and Mk-2 versions), with a third of those already ordered, some inducted, and the rest figuring prominently on the air force’s modernisation roadmap and expected to be contracted in the coming years.

In October 2023, HAL handed over the first trainer version of LCA Mk-1 to IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari in Bengaluru, with the twin seater set to fill a key training role and double as a fighter if needed.

The aircraft was part of an earlier order for 40 Mk-1 jets in the initial operational clearance (IOC) and the more advanced final operational clearance (FOC) configurations — the first variants of LCA. Of the 40 Mk-1s, IAF inducted 32 single-seater jets and raised two LCA squadrons.

The remaining eight aircraft are trainers, and all of them will be delivered to IAF soon.

One of the 32 LCA Mk-1s inducted crashed near Jaisalmer on March 12, minutes after taking part in a tri-services exercise that sought to demonstrate the strides India has made towards self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector.

That was the first LCA crash.

In November 2023, Modi flew in the LCA Mk-1 in Bengaluru and described the experience as “incredibly enriching” while also heaping praise on the country’s indigenous military capabilities.

Notably, IAF will deploy LCAs at forward air bases in the Western sector to bolster its combat readiness against Pakistan and fill the gap left by the gradual phasing out of the Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jets.

It is worth mentioning that as of now the timely delivery is a top priority for the IAF, which is grappling with a shortage of fighter squadrons.