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Army chief flies in home-grown Tejas, calls it ‘wonderful’

Army chief General Bipin Rawat on Thursday took to the skies in the home-grown Light Combat Aircraft Tejas at the Aero India show and described the French fighter jet as a “wonderful aircraft” that would add to the air power.

Sitting behind the pilot in a two-seater trainer variant of the Tejas, General Rawat took a sortie, a day after the HAL-made fighter jet received the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) at the air show, signalling that it was combat ready.

“Flight in LCA Tejas was an experience of a lifetime,” General Rawat said, after a 40-minute sortie in the skies above the Yelahanka Air Force Station, north of Bengaluru.

Describing the LCA ride as “a wonderful experience,” the Army chief said “From what I could witness, avionics are very good. Its targeting is very good. We were doing normal manoeuvres. We did not do the loop.”

“If it gets added to the inventory, it will add to air power,” said General Rawat, who is the first Army chief to fly in the agile, the smallest and lightest multi-role supersonic Tejas.

Tejas would replace the aging Jaguar and Mig-21 fleet. After taking the sortie, General Rawat also flew in the HAL-made Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) at the air show. The helicopter was piloted by Wg Cdr S John, HALs Test Pilot.

Terming the sortie in the LCH as an “experience of lifetime”, the Army Chief said, it is suitable for the Army to take on adversaries in any terrain and different altitudes.

LCH is a 5.5-ton class, combat helicopter designed and developed by HAL, which is powered by two Shakti engines and inherits many technical features of the Advanced Light Helicopter.

The FOC Certificate and Release to Service Document (RSD) relating to Tejas were handed over to the Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on the opening day of Aero India 2019 on Wednesday.

FOC involves addition of key capabilities to the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft which are Beyond Visual Range Missile capabilities,Air-to-Air Refuelling, Air-to-Ground FOC earmarked weapons and general flight envelope expansion.

Initial Operational Clearance for the aircraft was given in 2013 and IOC standard Aircraft were inducted into IAF No.45 Squadron in July 2016. The IAF squadron has since flown over 1,500 sorties successfully on the aircraft.

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