In a historic moment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in the indigenously designed, developed, and manufactured Tejas Twin Seat Light Combat Fighter aircraft in Bengaluru on Saturday. The sortie, conducted from the Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment in Bengaluru, showcased the capabilities of the Tejas fighter aircraft to the Prime Minister during the 30-minute flight. It marks the first instance of an Indian Prime Minister flying a sortie aboard a fighter aircraft. PM Modi described the experience as truly memorable.
Following the sortie, Modi tweeted, “successfully completed a sortie on the Tejas. The experience was incredibly enriching, significantly bolstering my confidence in our country’s indigenous capabilities and leaving me with a renewed sense of pride and optimism about our national potential”.
PM Modi, who has given a strong impetus to Aatmanirbharta in defence manufacturing, commended the scientists, engineers, and flight test crew involved in designing, developing, and producing the state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. He expressed pride in the capabilities of Indian engineers and scientists who contributed to this achievement, according to a statement issued by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The LCA trainer, a lightweight, all-weather, multirole aircraft, can perform all the roles of a single-seat Tejas fighter and can also be utilised as a fighter trainer. It marks the inaugural development of an indigenous twin-seat fighter in India, incorporating contemporary concepts and technologies such as quadruplex fly-by-wire flight control, carefree manoeuvring, an advanced glass cockpit, integrated digital avionics systems, and advanced composite materials for the airframe.
Introducing this state-of-the-art fighter aircraft has significantly augmented the defence capabilities and preparedness of the nation. The Tejas project has seen involvement from IAF test crews since the conceptual stage, with the first version being inducted into the IAF in 2016. Currently, two IAF squadrons, the 45th Squadron and the 18th Squadron, are fully operational with LCA Tejas.
A substantial order worth Rs 36,468 crore for the delivery of 83 LCA Mk 1A aircraft has been placed with HAL, and deliveries are set to commence by February 2024. To accommodate the growing demand, HAL is increasing its capacity to build 8 LCA aircraft per year to 16 aircraft per year by 2025 and further to 24 aircraft per year in the following three years.
For the development of LCA Mk 2, an upgraded and more potent version of LCA Tejas, over Rs 9000 crore has been sanctioned. In a move towards greater indigenization, including the aircraft engine, negotiations during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the US in June 2023 resulted in a Transfer of Technology agreement for manufacturing the GE engine in India.
Looking ahead, Tejas is poised to become the largest fleet of fighter aircraft operated by the Indian Air Force in the coming years. The Prime Minister’s sortie is expected to significantly boost the aeronautics ecosystem and enhance self-reliance in the defence sector.