Bangalore: Regarded as the smallest and the lightest combat jet in the world, the indigenously-designed Tejas` way to induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be cleared after it gets initial operational clearance (IOC-II) here Friday.
Officials said Defence Minister A.K. Antony will preside over the function where the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), an establishment of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), will certify that the Light Combat Aircraft has achieved IOC-II.
The certification will pave the way for induction of "the fourth generation fighter jet" into the IAF.
Tejas has been in the making for the last 30 years and the IOC-II certification is seen as a milestone by the people associated with the project.
Officials said Tejas is a single engine, multi-role supersonic fighter that weighs about 8.5 tonnes and can carry three tonnes of weapons.
Its parameters have been rigorously tested in nearly 2,500 flying hours of the LCA and no accident had taken place.
The IOC-I was achieved in 2011 but the IAF wanted several improvements in the fighter jet before it could be inducted.
"This is the lightest and smallest fighter aircraft in the world in the 10 tonne class," V. Subba Rao, technology director at the Aeronautical Development Agency, told IANS.
He said the fighter plane has undergone improvements since IOC-I in terms of its angle of attack and weapons delivery and has been tested for operation in different weather conditions.
"It has capability of firing missiles with helmet-mounted display system," Rao said.
The final operational clearance (FOC) of Tejas is expected to be carried out by the end of 2014 and the fighter plane will be equipped with mid-air refuelling ability apart from new missiles.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has started producing Tejas Mark I at its Limited Series Production hangar here and the first fighter jet is expected to be delivered to the IAF in March next year.
Officials said HAL plans to initially produce eight LCAs every year and then scale up production to 16.
They said all Tejas Mark I aircraft will be subsequently upgraded to Mark II after obtaining the FOC.
K. Tamilmani, director general at the Aeronautical Systems of DRDO, said Tejas has an altitude of 15 km and speed of more than 1,350 km per hour. It can fly 1,700 km non-stop and has "glass cockpit display system".
"The aircraft is 65 percent indigenous," he said. The engine, ejection seat and radar are among the components that have been imported.
He said Tejas can be compared to the Mirage 2000, F-16 and Gripen fighter jets.
Tejas is expected to cost about Rs.200 crore per aircraft initially, with the cost coming down as production increases.
Officials said the development cost of the Tejas project has been about Rs.10,000 crore.
Rao, who has been associated with the development of Tejas since 1987, said he felt overwhelmed at the fighter plane reaching the stage of IOC-II.
"It is a lifetime achievement for me. I am very fortunate to have been part of this programme from the beginning," Rao said.
Tejas is expected to replace the ageing MiG fleet of the IAF in the coming years.
HAL officials said the LCA development had taken almost 30 years as the project started from scratch in 1983 and the country had to battle technology denials in the wake of nuclear tests at Pokhran.
DRDO got permission to initiate the programme to design and develop the LCA in 1983.