Indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas completed seven years of service in the Indian Air Force (IAF) on July 1.
The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program was started in the early 1980s, with the Government of India (GoI) establishing the project in 1983 to replace Mig-21 fighters.
The first prototype took its first flight in January 2001 and the fighter was named
After more than a decade of trials, the first jet was finally inducted by the IAF in 2016 in the No. 45 squadron 'Flying Daggers'.
In 2020, the No.18 squadron 'Flying Bullets' became the second squadron to start operating the jet.
What is Tejas Mk-1?
The Tejas Mk-1 is light supersonic multirole jet, capable of doing multiple missions including
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)
air-interdiction (striking enemy targets deep into enemy territory)
maritime strike and reconnaissance missions
The jet carries, an Israeli laser designating pod, multi-mode radar, helmet mounted display system and self-protection suite.
Tejas Mk-1A: Its other variant — Tejas Mk-1A — 83 of which the IAF ordered from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in a deal worth Rs 48,000 crore in 2021, will be even more advanced.
Tejas Mk-1A will have 40 major improvements compared to the Tejas Mk-1.
It will have an active electronically-scanned array radar for detecting enemy aircraft at greater ranges and resistance to jamming, a new advanced self-protection jamming suite (ASPJ), digital flying control computer (DFCC), as well as, faster turnaround times for each aircraft after every sortie.
Current status of fighter jets
The IAF presently has 32 squadrons (16-18 planes each) of fighter jets against the 42 needed to tackle a collusive two-front threat against Pakistan and China.
Over the next two-three years, all four squadrons (each one has 16-18 planes) of the Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jets will retire.
The IAF’s Jaguar, MiG-29 and Mirage 2000 jet fleets — all inducted in phases during the 1980s — are slated to retire in batches beyond 2029-30.
These four types of jets are about 250 in number and are operating on an extended lifecycle.