02:23 GMT11 April 2021
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    The Indian Air Force (IAF) has committed to purchase 324 Tejas, which means most of the shortfall will be fulfilled by the homegrown fighter jet. The jet is already integrated with Derby beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles, while it will eventually boast advanced electronic warfare systems and the Russian-built GSh-23 autocannon.

    The Indian Air Force (IAF) has successfully carried out its first air-to-air refueling of the domestically built fighter aircraft Tejas MK1 with an IL-78 MKI tanker. The successful refueling test is being considered a big leap in the developmental stage and brightens the chances of the fighter jets getting an operational clearance certificate sooner. 

    "The success of these trials is a major leap for the indigenous fighter, thus enhancing its mission capability by increasing its range and payload. The ability to carry out air-to-air refueling is one of the critical requirements for the LCA to achieve 'Final Operational Clearance,'" an Indian Defense Ministry statement reads. 

    The tanker was launched from a base in Agra while the fighter was launched from the Gwalior base in central India. 

    The IAF has carried out several tests on specially modified Tejas aircraft including "dry contact" with the tanker that means that no fuel was actually exchanged between the Il-78 tanker and the Tejas fighter through its air-to-air refueling probe. In the coming days, it will conduct "wet tests" when actual fuel is transferred from the tanker to the fighter.

    "All flight parameters of Tejas aircraft were transmitted live to a ground control unit set up at Gwalior air base, wherein scientists constantly monitored the technical parameters of the mission," the ministry added.

    Against the total order of 123 Tejas aircraft, state-owned manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has so far handed over nine Tejas aircraft to the IAF. The Tejas, currently with the IAF, are, however, not combat-ready.

    Indian defense scientists in cooperation with Israeli defense firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems had completed the integration of the I-Derby beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile on Tejas in July 2017. Presently, nine Tejas are being equipped with the derby missile with an upgraded seeker. The Tejas will be also equipped with smart bombs developed by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Sources told Sputnik that the jet would also be integrated with the Russian-built GSh-23 autocannon.

    READ MORE: India's Homegrown Light Combat Aircraft Upgraded With Hot Refueling Capability

    Moreover, the fighter is to get an AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar developed by DRDO and an advanced electronic warfare (EW) suite.  Earlier this year,the DRDO claimed before a parliamentary panel that the IAF had committed to buying a total of 324 Tejas, including 201 upgraded versions of the jet. HAL claimed that the IAF would receive Mk-1A Tejas in 2019. Currently, HAL is producing six Tejas per year, which needs to be increased to 16 by 2019. HAL is also working on a more sophisticated version of a jet called the Tejas MK-2, which will fly only after 2022.


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    Indigenous, capabilities, modern warfare, fighter jets, refuelling aircraft, Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), Indian Air Force, India
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