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LCA Tejas moves towards IOC with five-week weapons trial

India's ambitious programme to develop a sophisticated light-weight fighter aircraft moved ahead another step with the Indian Air Force conducting a five-week multi-disciplinary trial with two Tejas aircraft at its Jamnagar air base in Gujarat. The trials take the programme closer to achieving Initial Operational Capability (IOC) - a task that the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which manages the Tejas programme, is committed to achieve by the end of 2010.

"The trials entailed flight envelope expansion in various stores configurations, as well as air-to-ground weapon delivery trials in different modes of weapon delivery," a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) official said here today.

According to officials, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) successfully demonstrated its ability to tackle targets designated visually by the pilot. With this phase behind it the LCA will now test its ability to let its on-board navigation and attack computers take on targets that are beyond visual range (BVR).

Defence sources said the five-week trials were conducted by the flight test crew of the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) which included test pilots, flight test engineers and instrumentation specialists.

Officials also said that this, indeed, was the first time that the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft has operated away from home base for so long.

The first squadron of the Mark-I LCA, with initial operational capability is scheduled to be inducted by the IAF by December 2010. In all the IAF is slated to induct around seven squadrons of the aircraft in its fleet. While the first two squadrons will be equipped with Mark-I, or IOC aircraft the remaining five squadrons will be the Mark-II version, an upgraded version of the aircraft that will match the likes of Saab Gripen JAS-39 in its capabilities.

The IOC configured squadrons will be equipped with the GE-404 engines while the remaining five squadrons will be equipped with either the GE-414 or the Eurojet 200 engines. DRDO is also in negotiations with various aircraft manufacturers to it in expanding the flight envelope of the aircraft.

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