TejasThe Indian Air Force plans to put much-delayed Tejas in combat role by next year after raising in July the first squadron of the indigenous Light Combat Aircrat which it counts “superior” to Pakistans JF 17 fighters.

State-run HAL will hand over the first two Tejas aircraft to IAF on July 1 which will make up the Flying Daggers 45, the name of the first squadron of the LCA which will be based in Bangalore for the first two years before being moved to Sulur in Tamil Nadu.

The idea is to have a total of six aircraft this financial year and about eight in the next. Tejas will feature in combat plan of the IAF next year and will be deployed in forward bases also, IAF sources said.

They asserted that Tejas, which still has at least 19, mostly related to maintenance and easier operations, of the 43 deficiencies that the force had highlighted earlier, is “one of the exceptional single-engine fighter aircraft in the world”.

Asked how the aircraft fared in comparison to JF 17, jointly developed and built by Pakistan and China, the IAF said it was “better”.

“It is a better one since it is mostly made of composite which makes it light and very agile. It also comes with smart ammunitions and bombs which help it to hit targets in a precise manner,” a source said.

Sources also said that Tejas will replace the MiG 21s and will be used for air-to-air fight and ground attack and could also be a compliment to bigger fighter planes such as Su 30 MKI.

All squadrons of Tejas will be made up of 20 planes in total, including four in reserve. As per the plan, while 20 would be inducted under the “Initial Operational Clearance”, another 20 will be inducted later with Beyond Visual Range Missile (BVR) and some other features.

The IAF plans to induct over 80 aircraft with better specifications known as Tejas 1A.

The upgraded version of Tejas, with Active Electrically Scanned Array Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare Suite, mid-air refuelling capacity and advanced beyond the vision range missiles, will cost between Rs 275 crore and Rs 300 crore.

While the idea to have an indigenous fighter aircraft was conceptualised in 1970s, the actual work started only in the 80s and the first flight took place in January 2001