On July 1, 2023, the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will complete seven years of service in the Indian Air Force. Christened Tejas in 2003, the aircraft is a multi-role platform that ranks amongst the best in its class. It has been designed to undertake the Air Defence, Maritime Reconnaissance and Strike roles. The inherently unstable Tejas offers carefree handling and enhanced manoeuvrability. This capability is further enhanced with its Multi-Mode Airborne radar, Helmet Mounted Display, Self-protection suite and Laser Designation Pod.
The first IAF Squadron to induct the Tejas was No 45 Squadron, the 'Flying Daggers'. Over the years, the squadron progressed from Vampires to Gnats and then onto the MiG-21 Bis, before being equipped with its current steed. Each of the aircraft flown by the Flying Daggers has been manufactured in India - either under license production or having been designed and developed in India. In May 2020, No 18 Squadron became the second IAF unit to operate the Tejas.
The IAF has showcased India's indigenous aerospace capabilities by displaying the aircraft at various international events, including LIMA-2019 at Malaysia, Dubai Air Show-2021, Sri Lanka Air Force anniversary celebrations in 2021, Singapore Air Show- 2022 and Aero India Shows from 2017 to 2023. Whilst it had already participated in exercises with foreign air forces domestically, Ex-Desert Flag in the United Arab Emirates in March 2023 was the Tejas' maiden exercise on foreign soil.
The confidence that the IAF reposes in the Tejas is borne by its order for 83 LCA Mk-1A which will have updated avionics, as well as an Active Electronically Steered Radar, updated Electronic Warfare suite and a Beyond Visual Range missile capability. The new variant will be capable of firing a plethora of weapons from increased stand-off ranges. Many of these weapons will be of indigenous origin. The LCA MK-1A will see a substantial increase in the overall indigenous content of the aircraft. Contracted deliveries of the aircraft are expected to commence in February 2024. In the years to come, the LCA and its future variants will form the mainstay of the Indian Air Force.