‘Flying Bullets’ to be Made Operational on May 27 at Sulur Airbase, IAF’s No. 18 Squadron to Fly LCA Tejas Mk 1

The “Flying Bullets”, No. 18 Squadron, of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be made operational on Wednesday at Sulur Airbase by the Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria. The “Flying Bullets” will be the second IAF squadron which will fly indigenously-built fourth generation Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. IAF’s sole Param Vir Chakra (PVC) recipient Flying Officer Nirmaljeet Singh Sekhon also belonged to the same squadron. IAF’s Tejas-MK1 Front Runner to Bag Aircraft Contract of Royal Malaysian Air Force; Pakistan’s JF-17, South Korea’s FA-50 Golden Eagle Also in Race.

The Squadron was resurrected on April 1, 2020, at Sulur, Tamil Nadu. The Final Operational Clearance (FOC) variant LCA Tejas Mk 1 will now be inducted in this squadron after two months. The No. 45 Squadron IAF “Flying Daggers” was the first to get their MiG-21s replaced by Tejas aircraft .

The “Flying Bullets” was first raised on raised in April 1965 with five Folland Gnats and eleven pilots. It flew Mig-27 till 2016 and was number-plated after that. It remained decommissioned for almost four years. Indigenous Built LCA-Tejas Performed Well During The ‘Gagan-Shakti 2018’.

The squadron actively participated in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Flying Officer Nirmaljeet Singh Sekhon of the “Flying Bullets” was awarded PVC posthumously. The motto of the squadron was ‘Teevra aur Nirbhaya’ – which means ‘Swift and Fearless. After the war, in February 1975, the Gnats were phased out, and replaced by HAL Ajeets.

In May 1989, they were replaced with MiG 27s. With the induction of MiGs, its former role of Air Defence was changed to ground-attack. The squadron received the Presidential Standard Award in 2015. The “Flying Bullets” has also earned the sobriquet of ‘Defenders of Kashmir Valley’ as it was first IAF squadron to land and operate from Srinagar.

 

LCA Tejas Test Fires Derby Missile Off Goa Coast; Moves Inch Closer Towards Final Operational Certification

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Picture Courtesy: PTI/File

In a major breakthrough, indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas has successfully test fired an air-to-air beyond visual  range (BVR) missile from the Goa coast on April, 27.  It demonstrated its overall capability as an effective combat jet. This move has paved the way to receive Final Operational Clearance (FOC). The test firing of the missile from a Tejas jet was carried out on April 27 off the Goa coast and it met all operational requirements. Earlier, Tejas was given clearance for deployment of armaments and other missiles, reported PTI, quoting defence ministry officials.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had ordered the first batch of 40 Tejas Mark-1 version. The Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) is to make four major upgrades in Mark-1 version and incorporated into the second batch of 83 Tejas fighter jets, for which a request for proposal (RFP) was issued to HAL by the IAF in December last year. This new batch will be of LCA Tejas Mark 1A version. The total cost of these 83 jets will be around Rs 50,000 crore.

The successful launch of the BVR missile will expedite issuance of the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) to the aircraft. LCA Tejas is developed by state-run aerospace organisation Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The Defence Ministry in an official statement said, “The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) successfully fired Derby air-to-air BVR Range missile to expand the firing envelope as well as to demonstrate safe operation of the aircraft.” According to the press release, the missile was launched from the LCA piloted by Wing Commander Siddharth Singh yesterday from the firing range off the Goa coast after exhaustive study of the missile separation characteristics.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman appreciated the DRDO and other agencies for developing Tejas, a world-class aircraft. DRDO Chairman S Christopher confirmed that with this firing, the Tejas had moved an inch closer towards FOC certification. According to the ministry, integration of Derby, a BVR class missile, is one of the major objectives of Final Operational Clearance of LCA Tejas. Two other Tejas aircraft tracked the aircraft which fired derby to capture the firing event in the specially instrumented high speed cameras for detailed analysis of the test launch of the missile. The entire planning, practice sorties and final firing was carried out by ADA and its National Flight Test Centre (NFTC). According to PTI, the ministry confirmed that based on the successful integration and demonstration, Regional Centre for Military Airworthiness (RCMA), a unit of DRDO had cleared the series production aircraft of squadron 45, to be equipped with Derby operational capability.