Sitting behind the pilot in a two-seater trainer variant of the Light Combat indigenous Aircraft Tejas was Army chief General Bipin Rawat, who took a spin in the nimble fighter jet in the skies above Yelahanka Air Force Station, Bengaluru. This was the first time General Rawat flew in the home-made fighter jet, known for its agility, being the smallest and lightest multirole supersonic fighter jet in its class.
Army chief General addressed the media immediately after his flight and was in praise of the avionics of the aircraft. Highlighting it's targeting strength, Army chief General Bipin Rawat said:
"For me, the flight in the LCA was a wonderful experience. It was an experience of a lifetime. From whatever I could witness, the avionics of the aircraft is very good, I could also see the manner in which the pilot was targeting was very good even in radar mode or other modes. I think it is a wonderful aircraft and if this gets added to the inventory, I am sure it will increase the strength of our air power. I am very thankful to Air Vice Marshal Tiwari who made this happen for me. We did a little bit of backing but we did not fly a loop. All the three security forces work together."
Moreover, PS Raghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor to the government, also flew in the LCA Tejas.
Although a lightweight aircraft with a short range, the LCA Tejas can carry the same array of modern weapons that bigger warplanes carry, from precision guided and standoff weaponry to long-range 'beyond visual range' missiles that can take down enemy planes from a safe distance.
The Army Chief's scheduled sortie came after India's Light Combat Aircraft received the final operational clearance (FOC) from military aviation regulator CEMILAC for induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a weaponised fighter jet on Wednesday.
The Chief Executive of Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), P. Jayapal, handed over the FOC certificate and release-to-service documents to Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa at the Aero India air show.
"It is a major milestone for the LCA to get the final operational clearance. The aircraft could fly in many sorties and has demonstrated the precision with which it can deliver weapons," Dhanoa addressed the media in the presence of Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said.
The final operational clearance or FOC aircraft of LCA Tejas has several additional capabilities compared to the initial operational clearance or IOC aircraft - the primary one being a more advanced missile capability with a significantly enhanced range.
Listing some of the more advanced capabilities of the FOC aircraft of LCA Tejas, an official release stated that it has more advanced features like: Beyond Visual Range Missile capabilities, Air-to-Air Refuelling, Air-to-Ground FOC earmarked advanced weapons and delivery system, and general flight envelope expansion.
The Indian Air Force recently placed an order of 83 advanced FOC aircraft of the LCA Tejas. Speaking about the order and the air force's future plan, Air Marshal BS Dhanoa said: "Not only will we have to induct the LCA Tejas MK II, we will, in the days ahead, replace the Jaguar, Mirage and MiG 29 fighter jets." The air chief added that "After that we will go ahead with the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft."