Chief of United State Air Force will fly India’s indeginously build Light Combat Aircraft Tejas on Saturday. This will be the first time, the head of a foreign military is flying Tejas and the move will somehow silence the critics of home grown fighter jet.
General David L. Goldfein, chief of Staff of the US Air Force, who is on his visit to India, will take a sortie in LCA Tejas from Jodhpur Air Force station on Saturday morning. Goldfein along with General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of US Pacific Air Force, landed in New Delhi on Thursday to boost military ties between the two nations and already had several rounds of discussion with key functionaries of IAF, including Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhano at Air Force headquarters.
Incidentally, it is the first time top most military commanders of the US have arrived India together. In November, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen took a half-an-hour long sortie in Tejas from Kalaikunda airbase and hailed the aircraft as “excellent and very impressive”.
LCA Tejas, an over three-decade-old project, is a single-seat, single-engine multi-role light fighter aircraft, which is yet to be combat ready as the Final Operation Clearance (FOC) that certifies a jet a battle worthy, is expected to be delivered by the end of this year to HAL, the manufacturer of the Tejas. Though in December, IAF has formally placed order for 83 Tejas aircraft with HAL, the force had sought some modifications in the aircraft.
IAF, while pitching for a case to have single engine fighter jet, is believed to have informed the government that Tejas is not enough to protect Indian skies with its limited capabilities. IAF is believed to have told the the ministry of defence that the “endurance” of Tejas in combat is just about 59 minutes and can carry a pay-load of about three tons, which are much below the capability of other single-engine jets available in the global market.
Besides, IAF also made some reservations over the maintenance cost of Tejas. It is learnt that maintenance cost of Tejas is high as fighter needs 20 hours of servicing for every hour of flying. In order to maintain its operational effectiveness and depleting combat fleet, IAF is all set for global tenders for the single engine fighters.
LCA Tejas, developed by HAL, is claimed to be nearly 60 per cent indigenous. It has the fly by wire, state of the art open architecture computer for avionics and better weapon and combat capability.