The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday operationalised its no.18 Squadron, the “Flying Bullets”, at Sulur equipping it with the fourth generation Mk1 LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Tejas.
The indigenous tailless compound delta wing aircraft was inducted at an official ceremony in the presence of Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria at the Sulur Air Force Station.
The No.18 Squadron will be the second one to have the home-made Tejas, after the 45 Squadron based here. An all faith prayer was held and a coconut broken to mark the induction of Tejas today.
The No 18 Squadron, formed in 1965 with the motto “Teevra aur Nirbhaya” meaning “Swift and Fearless,” was earlier flying MiG 27 aircraft.
The Squadron “actively participated” in the 1971 war with Pakistan. The Squadron was “resurrected” on April 1 this year at Sulur.
Tejas is equipped with fly-by-wire flight control system, integrated digital avionics and multimode radar, while its structure is made of composite material.
It is also the “lightest and smallest” in its group of fourth generation supersonic combat aircraft,” a Defence release on Monday said.
According to HAL Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan, the final operational clearance (FOC) variant has been designed and improved to be lethal than the initial operational clearance (IOC) block.
“Apart from all the capabilities of IOC aircraft, the FOC variant additionally comes with Air-to-Air refueling capability, close combat gun, additional drop tanks, BVR missile capability, updated avionics, and flight control software suite”, Madhavan said.
Further, HAL said in a statement that the FOC variant will reduce the maintenance man-hours and turn-around time resulting in enhanced support for IAF missions.
“Four more FOC-LCAs are in the advanced stages of production and testing and expected to join the Squadron soon,” the statement read.
According to an official spokesperson of HAL, training for both aircrew as well as the maintenance crew for the FOC aircraft is already underway. “The first batch of trained air warriors are already with the 18 Squadron,” the spokesperson told Indianexpress.com.
(With inputs from Ralph Alex Arakal)
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