Bangalore: The first of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, built for the Indian Air Force (IAF) by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), was flown here Tuesday, the defence behemoth said Wednesday.
"The maiden flight of the first fighter in the limited series production for IAF was piloted by our chief test pilot Air Commodore K.A. Muthana (retd) nine months after the regulator (Cemilac) gave initial operation clearance (IOC-II)," HAL Chairman R.K. Tyagi said in a statement here.
Touted to be the smallest and the lightest combat jet in the world, the indigenously-built Tejas was certified in December 2013 by the central government for Military Airworthiness and Certification (Cemilac) of the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
"The aircraft is ready for the IAF operations. The other series aircraft are at various stages of production at our complex here," Tyagi said.
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 September 2013.
"We faced many challenges in designing and developing Tejas, including sanctions on import of carbon fibre, building tooling and manufacturing capability and world class manufacturing standards," Tyagi said.
Though the final operational clearance (FOC) for inducting Tejas into the IAF frontline fighter fleet is scheduled for December, it is likely to be delayed by a couple of months, as DRDO is yet to receive two crucial testing equipment for improving its performance from an overseas vendor.
Conceived in mid-1980s with an estimated project cost of Rs.560 crore, development of the home-grown fourth generation fighter and building 15 prototype aircraft for extensive test flights have cost the exchequer a whopping Rs.10,000 crore.
As a single engine, multi-role supersonic fighter, Tejas weighs around 8.5 tonnes and has capacity to carry three tonnes of weapons, including missiles and laser bombers.
Tejas is expected to replace the ageing MiG fleet of the IAF in the coming years.