SHILLONG (TIP): Tejas, India’s first indigenously designed and developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), would be fully battle-ready by 2014, Indian Air Force chief N.A.K. Browne said in the Meghalaya capital. “Tejas, a fourth-generation fighter aircraft, will replace MIG 21 … and the aircraft will be the LCA Mark I Type. Forty of them will be inducted by the IAF by end-2014,” Air Chief Marshal Browne told journalists at the Advance Landing Ground in Upper Shillong. “Eight days from now, I will head to Bangalore, where we are doing the acceptance of the initial operation clearance, the second operation clearance, for the Tejas LCA so Defence Minister A.K. Antony will also be there.”

The air chief, who retires Dec 31, was here on a farewell visit to the Eastern Air Command headquarters. “We have already begun work to develop Tejas Mark Two aircraft which will be fitted with GE engines. The Mark II Type aircraft will be developed from the basic Mark I and it will have far better improvement in radar systems, powerful engines and even other features,” Browne said. “It (Tejas Mark II) will also have more fuel carrying capacity, a more powerful engine and that will actually be the future for the air force in terms of replacement for MIG 21,” he said. Apart from the Tejas aircraft, the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Rafale fighter aircraft would also be inducted to further strengthen the assets of the Indian Air Force, the outgoing air chief said. “Negotiations are going on with regard to the Rafale fighter aircraft.

We have a little bit of a set back, as you know, the JSO (joint secretaryoperation) who was handling the case passed away two months back. However, a new joint secretary has been appointed last week to take charge of the negotiations. They are having meeting this time. I am hopeful that by next year we are able to wrap up this case,” Browne said. He said delivery of the French MMRCA Rafale fighter aircraft was expected to take place by 2017. On the phasing out of MIG-21 aircraft, Browne said: “It was a watershed moment for the Indian Air Force because this was the (MIG 21) aircraft which all our fighter pilots, including me and a generation of pilots, had been trained on. It has done its job well.” “So one major phase has passed, and now we look forward to the induction of the Tejas in the Indian Air Force,” he said.

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