The first squadron of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas — christened ‘Flying Daggers 45’ — will be in place on July 1 with the handing over of two LCA by the makers Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to the Indian Air Force.
IAF officials said on Monday the first LCA squadron will be based in Bangalore in Karnataka for two years before shifting to Sulur in Tamil Nadu.
Starting with two aircraft, the squadron will get six more jets by 2017 to make it fully operational.
The LCA is far superior to Pakistan’s JF-17 built jointly with China, the IAF added.
The indigenous fighter jet, which is still to get full operational clearance, is expected to get into combat role next year, officials said.
IAF’s squadron number 45, ‘Flying Daggers’, has to its credit the shooting down of a Pakistani naval surveillance aircraft in 1999, some 300 km northeast of Karachi, killing all 16 people on board.
The squadron, which was based at Nalia air base in Gujarat, was flying MIG-21 Bis at that time.
“It is an excellent platform with proven airworthiness and superb safety record ever registered by any fighter jet in the world,” a senior IAF official said.
“During its 3,000 hours of sorties in the development phase, the LCA registered more than 2,500 hours of exceptionally clean flights,” he added.
The first Tejas squadron will consist of 20 aircraft, with four in reserve.
Officials said the second LCA squadron will be raised with improved capabilities, including critical necessity of missile firing to Beyond Visual Range. The IAF plans to induct over 80 aircraft with better specifications, known as Tejas 1A.
In the coming years, altogether 120 Tejas jets are to be inducted, replacing MiG-21s, which perform the role of close combat support.
“Tejas is far, far better than MiG-21s in terms of safety as its fly-by-wire system is the state-of-the-art in the world,” an IAF official said.
The improved Tejas-1A will be far more superior than the first two squadrons, since these will have mid-air refueling, modern internal radar warning receiver and external self-protection jammer pod to enhance survivability and an active electronically scanned array radar, the officials added.