India's first indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is all set to finally replace the ailing 'vintage' series of MiG-21 for the Indian Air Force. Tejas is a single seater-single engineaircraft.In its current form, Tejas is almost similar to a stealth as it has quite a few features in common with the coveted jet. "The wings are made entirely of composite structures. The contemporary aircraft has a totally digital fly-by-wire control system," Ravi Kumar Gupta, Scientist 'G' and Directorate of Public Interface at DRDO. It incorporates a 'glass cockpit' in which information is displayed in 'real-time' to the pilot.
Tejas also has open architecture software for avionics. DRDO can update it as and when required citing the same as a big plus point of the aircraft. Another feature that isspecial to Tejas is the 'unstable configuration' technique with which it has been built. 'To explain it in lay-man terms, between a bike and a car, a car is much more stable, but is unable to exhibit the same manoeuvrability as a bike. Combat aircraft need to be highly manoeuvrable'. The DRDO claims that the Tejas LCA in its current form is one of the best 'modern aircraft' available in the world, with technology that 'will not go obsolete' for decades.
The all weather combat aircraft has been extensively tested in 'tough' flying conditions since its maiden test flight in 2001 says DRDO, the government department tasked with building this aircraft. Back in 1983, the government first sanctioned Rs 560 crore for a 'Programme Definition Project'. The aim of the project was to determine whether India had the capability to manufacture a combat aircraft, and if yes, then what should the configuration be. Post report submission in 1988, the government sanctioned Rs 2,188 crore (which included the Rs 560 crore sanctioned earlier) for the design and development of an LCA.
Ravi Kumar Gupta says, "In 1993, the industry had limited experience and competence scope. The manufacturing base to build such an aircraft did not exist." He also claimed that all-throughout the development process, 'foreign powers' tried to scuttle the project. Faced with difficulties such as lack of skilled manpower, the DRDO took help of institutes like IITs and IISc to make sure that progress of the project was not hampered.
HAL was instructed by the Indian government to strictly adhere to deadlines to ensure IOC-2 by the end of 2013 andFinal Operational Clearance (FOC) by the end of 2014.
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