The Indian Air Force's newly-inducted HAL Tejas combat aircraft should reach final operational status by late 2014, according to defence minister A.K. Antony's statement.
In early 2011, the HAL Tejas achieved IOC (initial operating clearance) status but, since then, ongoing issues have delayed its full introduction into service. "To achieve this [final operational status] objective, all stakeholders including the Defence Research and Development Organisation, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and IAF must put their energy together in a focused manner", Antony urged.
Referring to the Tejas' indigenous background and the need for India to start working on other home-grown military technologies, he added: "We continue to be the largest importer of defence equipment. The share of indigenous content in defence procurement is low. Our experience has been that foreign vendors are reluctant to part with critical technologies.
"There are delays in the supply of essential spares [and] there are exorbitant price increases. The services [need] to realise that we cannot be eternally-dependant on foreign equipment and platforms."
Indian HAL Tejas
The Indian HAL Tejas story dates back to the 1980s. At that point, India launched its LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) programme, which aimed to develop a new fighter type to take over from the Indian Air Force's elderly MiG-21s.
The resultant prototype Tejas design made its first flight in January 2001, followed some seven years later by the first production model. Since 2011's IOC award, the IAF Tejas fleet has carried out many sorties but, in August 2012, a three-month grounding was imposed, on account of issues involving the aircraft's ejection seat configuration. Ultimately, the Indian Air Force is set to be equipped with a maximum of 180 Tejas fighters, while the Indian Navy will get up to 50 examples.
Powered by a single F404-GE-IN20 turbofan, the Tejas has a top speed of Mach 1.8, an unrefuelled range of 850 kilometres and a service ceiling of 50,000 feet. Eight weapons hardpoints can carry up to 4,000 kilograms of ordnance, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missiles and bombs. These are supplemented by a 23mm twin-barrel GSh-23 cannon, complete with 220 ammunition rounds.