Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) recently conducted a maiden test flight of its Light Combat Aircraft Tejas in Final Operational Clearance-standard. The jet bearing number SP-21 was piloted by Air Cmde. K A Muthana (Retd), Chief Test Flying (Fixed Wing) of HAL. The aircraft took off from HAL Airport and was airborne for 40 minutes.
“HAL achieved the momentous feat within a record time of 12 months after the release of Drawing Applicability List (DAL) and SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) by CEMILAC”, the statement said.
The FOC Tejas is more advanced and developed with improvements suggested after inducting LCA IOC in IAF. “It imbibes a lot of manufacturing improvements which were based on the operational feedback of LCA IOC (Initial Operational Clearance) fleet with IAF,” HAL said.
IAF will soon induct 16 FOC-Standard Tejas for its 18 Flying Bullets squadron based out of Sulur, where the first Tejas squadron, 45 Flying Daggers, was established, consisting of 16 IOC Tejas.
Once all the 16 FOC Tejas are delivered, HAL will covert the IOC Tejas to Final Operational Clearance-standard and then move to manufacture the Tejas MkI.
Here’s how the FOC Tejas is better than IOC Tejas and what are the changes in the new fighter jet-
The biggest criticism of the LCA Tejas IOC version was its limited range and fuel carrying capacity. The IOC Tejas currently carries two fixed tanks of 1,200 and 800-liter capacity. The FOC-Standard Tejas now gets an additional tank with 725-liter capacity installed in the central line, just at the fuselage center.
To enhance the range further, the FOC Tejas further gets a mid-air refueling probe for the very first time, which means it can fly for longer missions without worrying much about the fuel. This, however, will increase the radar cross-section of the indigenous jet, which otherwise has a small radar signature thanks to its compact design.
The FOC Tejas carries a Gsh-23 autocannon with a twin-barrel 23 mm gun. The autocannon now has better software and has been tested on the ground. Soon, the cannon will be tested for its air combat capabilities too.
The LCA FOC Tejas will also carry the Astra BVR missiles (Beyond Visual Range) in the future. Astra is a home-made BVR air-to-air missile with a 110 km range. Currently, Tejas carries Derby BVR sourced from Israel.
The FOC Tejas will have better maneuverability and agility to help Tejas touch 8G force at a lower speed, increasing its flying envelope. Tejas can maneuver from -3G to 8G. To achieve such agility, changes have been made to the mechanical system, including the flaps. This will also help Tejas to save itself from incoming missiles by quickly pulling an 8G move without stalling mid-air.
After the successful flight test of Tejas SP-21 in march 2020, it was in software upgrade
“Now, the focus is on the completion of structural build of aircraft, which are planned to be produced during this financial year. The first three aircraft are in advanced stage of delivery and another three (SP-24, SP-25, SP-26) are in various stages of equipping,” the official added.
The detailed part manufacturing work is currently under way for manufacturing of eight Tejas FOC trainer aircraft. The jigs are being calibrated for structural assembly and if HAL sticks to the current plan, the first trainer will fly out by end of next year.