At 1550 hrs in Bahrain on Thursday, as the Sarang Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) aerobatic team was winding down its performance, India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas took off with a roar, climbed almost vertically immediately and then displayed its capabilities for the next 10 minutes to a discerning audience of aviation enthusiasts.
The manoeuvres ranging from a square loop to a steep dive and from tight turns to two rolls demonstrated the arrival of a new, capable and potent kid on the military aviation scene.
Perhaps the world’s smallest lightweight, multi role single engine tactical fighter aircraft, Tejas has been long in the making but it’s performance in Bahrain – its first demo outside India – should leave no doubt about its capabilities.
As a Bahrain official remarked immediately after the Tejas flight, “We had only heard about the Tejas earlier but the way it demonstrated its capability today, we are happy that its international debut was here in Bahrain. It’s a winner by any standards.”
The two test pilots – Commodore Jaideep Maolankar and Group Capt Madhav Rangachari – too were happy! Speaking to BharatShakti immediately after completing the flight, a beaming Maolankar said, “It was a culmination of long hours of team work. Elated that it went off so well.” Rangachari added, “Given how hard all of us had worked and planned for this, there was never any doubt about Tejas performing so well.”
Both the aviators stressed on the fact that Tejas is a pilot’s delight. “Today, we can say Tejas has come of age,” both said in unison.
Dr. S Christopher, DG DRDO and secretary R&D, who has specially flown in to witness the Tejas flight, was more than happy. “Today we have demonstrated to the world that we are capable of producing a world class fighter plane. It was quite different from Tejas flying in Bangalore. Here a discerning audience was watching the performance very closely and my feedback is the curiosity has now only increased. As the RM has said we are ready to productionise the Tejas from next year. Already people are making enquiries about its capabilities. Our team work has paid off.”
C B Balaji, head of the LCA programme at the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) pointed out that the participation in Bahrain enabled the team to achieve expansion of its flight envelope and test the upgraded flight control systems.
Air Vice Marshal J. Chalapati, Project Director at the National Flight Test Centre of the ADA too was satisfied with the performance. “The world wanted to know if Tejas is really the fourth generation plus fighter aircraft. Today they saw the proof.”
With the initial flights behind them, the Tejas team will fly the aircraft on Friday and Saturday too for the spectators at the show. On Saturday, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is likely to be visit the show and witness the Tejas flight.
Thursday, 21st January will no doubt be recorded as a significant milestone in Tejas’ long and chequered history. From here on only sky is the limit for this indigenously designed, developed and manufactured combat aircraft.