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November 7, 2013

Don't delay Light Combat Aircraft project: Anthony to DRDO

Defence minister A K Antony on Wednesday directed the DRDO to ensure that the operational deadlines for the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, first sanctioned 30 years to replace the ageing MiG-21s, are not delayed yet again.

Addressing the parliamentary consultative committee on defence, Antony said the under-development indigenous fighter's initial operational clearance (IOC) planned for next month and the final operational clearance (FOC) in December 2014 should be ``completed on schedule''.

With DRDO currently handling as many as 532 projects, the minister asked DRDO to ``mainly concentrate on high-end research, particularly in critical and strategic areas''. DRDO should invest more time and resources in fundamental research, lay more emphasis on major mission-mode programmes for the armed forces and pool together resources and talent available in academic and other R&D institutions, he said.

The long-running developmental sagas of the Tejas fighter and Arjun main-battle tank have come to symbolize the huge delays and cost-overruns dogging virtually all major projects of DRDO. While the MPs lauded DRDO's success in the field of missiles, they were ``bitterly critical'' of the delay in such projects.

As earlier reported by TOI, the single-engine Tejas is unlikely to become fully combat-worthy anytime before end-2015. When the Tejas project was first sanctioned in 1983, the initial project cost was pegged at Rs 560 crore. The overall programme will now cost upwards of Rs 25,000 crore if the naval variant, trainer and the failed Kaveri engine are also taken into account.

It was in January 2011 that Tejas got IOC-I, which was initially heralded as the ``full and final IOC'' by the combine of DRDO, Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd till better sense prevailed. The fighter can be certified as fully airworthy only after it passes the IOC-II stage.

The light-weight Tejas will be ready to go to war only after the FOC, which will include integration of all weapons and other systems to ensure it can fire guns, rockets, laser-guided bombs and BVR (beyond visual range) missiles as well as undergo air-to-air refuelling. 
- Times of india

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