SOURCE: DAILY MAIL
AFTER a gap of over 30 years, the Indian Air Force (IAF) would be deploying a homemade combat aircraft along the Pakistan border in an offensive role during the forthcoming pan-India war games ‘Exercise Gaganshakti’ starting from April 8. The last homegrown planes, which had seen operational action, were the HF-24 Maruts 147 of which were produced by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in the 1960s and were decommissioned from the Air Force in 1985.
During the war games, the Air Force would be deploying the planes along the Pakistan border in air defence roles to prepare against any aerial offensive, government sources told MAIL TODAY. This is the first time that after getting inducted into the Air Force formally, the LCA Tejas plane is taking part in an operational role in one of the biggest war games being held by the service, they said.
The planes are likely to be deployed in the western and south-western sector of the Air Force during the exercise between the forward bases. India has several forward bases on the Pakistan border — Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir— to defend any attack from the Pakistan side, the sources said.
The Tejas planes have been inducted into the 45 Squadron of the IAF in the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration and are being readied for carrying out operational roles in the near future. The participation of the Tejas in operational role will be a big boost to the Make in India progarmme, idrw and will be a big landmark for the indigenous aircraft development project, which is now entering an important phase of getting operational, an IAF official said.
The LCA project, approved in 1983, has been marred by delays due to the sanction regime of the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and delays on part of laboratories of the DRDO. However, the programme received a major push from the defence ministry as recently the defence minister-led defence acquisition council (DAC) cleared the `48,000 crore project to procure 83 LCA Mk1A from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, and the tender in this regard was issued in the last week of December to the public sector firm.
The Gaganshakti exercise is a panIndia war game conducted by the Air Force across its operational commands where the response of the force is checked to the threats faced by it on different fronts.
During this exercise, several hundred combat planes— including the Su-30MKI, Mirage- 2000, Jaguars and MiG 29s— would take part and hundreds of missions would be flown with impeccable planning and execucraft, which would be more of technology demonstrators but the IAF was more interested in having the LCA Mark 2, which would be a more capable and upgraded version of the indigenous plane in the making for the last over two decades.
The HAL would first deliver the Mark 1 aircraft to the IAF and then would produce the Mark 1A in the interim till the time it is ready with the Mark 2 version. The project would give a strong push to the indigenous fighter aircraft industry as this would be the first major bulk production order for the plane. The Air Force is also looking to induct more than 200 LCA Mk-2 planes which would be totally different from the LCA Mark-1 and LCA Mark1A planes and would be in the league of the Mirage-2000s and MiG 29s serving in the force presently. tion, they said.
The exercise will be based on a scenario that included rapid deployment across the country at all operational Air Force bases. Meanwhile, defence experts feel that the decision to procure the LCA will reduce the dependence on imports. The IAF has already placed orders for 20 LCA Mark 1 airTejas is inducte