In a major boost to Make in India in defence sector, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is for the first time planning to deploy the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas in its mega pan-India exercise called ‘Gaganshakti’ in which almost all the combat aircraft of the service will take part in March-April this year.
The LCA Tejas planes have been inducted into the 45 Squadron of the IAF in the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration and are being readied for carrying out operational roles in the near future.
“A few of the tests have to be done on the LCA which are in the process of being carried out. After these are done, the plan is to deploy the planes in the forthcoming pan-India war games code-named ‘Exercise Gaganshakti’,” government sources told Mail Today.
This will be a big boost to the Make in India progarmme and will be a big landmark for the indigenous aircraft development project, which is now entering an important phase of getting operational, an IAF official said.
The LCA project approved in 1983 has been marred by delays due to the sanction regime of the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s and delays on part of laboratories of the DRDO.
However, the programme received a major push from the defence ministry as recently, the defence minister-led Defence Acquisition Council cleared the Rs 48,000 crore project to procure 83 LCA Mk1A from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the tender in this regard was issued last week to the public sector firm.
The Gaganshakti exercise is a pan-India war game conducted by the Air Force across its operational commands where the response of the force is checked to the threats faced by it on different fronts.
During the exercise, the IAF will operate its latest acquisitions in a network-centric environment, achieving very high levels of synergy with the Army and the Navy, sources in the Air Force said.
During this exercise, several hundred combat planes including the Su-30MKI, Mirage-2000, Jaguars and MiG 29s would take part and hundreds of missions would be flown with impeccable planning and execution, they said.
The exercise will be based on a scenario that included rapid deployment across the country at all operational Air Force bases.
Meanwhile, defence experts feel that the decision to procure the LCA will reduce the dependence on imports.
The IAF has already placed orders for 20 LCA Mark 1 aircraft which would be more of technology demonstrators but the IAF was more interested in having the LCA Mark 2, which would be a more capable and upgraded version of the indigenous plane in the making for the last over two decades.
The HAL would first deliver the Mark 1 aircraft to the IAF and then would produce the Mark 1A in the interim till the time it is ready with the Mark 2 version.
The project would give a strong push to the indigenous fighter aircraft industry as this would be the first major bulk production order for the plane.