In a major milestone in the military aviation in the country, the first squadron of home- grown Light Combat Aircraft Tejas was inducted into IAF with two fighter planes joining the force on Friday in Bengaluru.
State-run HAL handed over the first two Tejas aircraft to IAF, which makes up the first squadron named 'Flying Daggers', at a ceremony preceded by inter-faith prayers at the Aircraft System Testing Establishment.
A Tejas aircraft flown by Commanding Officer Group Captain Madhav Rangachari performed a sortie during the induction ceremony, attended by Air Marshal Jasbir Walia, Air Officer Commanding-in Chief, Southern Air Command and senior HAL executives.
The commissioning of the India-made fighter planes comes more than three decades after LCA went into development.
The aircraft was named "Tejas" (meaning radiance in Sanskrit) by Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister.
The squadron will be based in Bengaluru for the first two years before being moved to Sulur in Tamil Nadu.
Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, who on May 17 took his maiden flight in Tejas, had termed the aircraft as "good" for induction.
IAF has said the idea is to have a total of six aircraft this financial year and about eight in the next.
Tejas will feature in combat plan of the IAF next year and will be deployed in forward bases also, it has said.
Stating that LCA squadron should be formed by July, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had earlier this month said "next year I think two MiG-21 squadrons are being decommissioned; this will go into initially replacing them."
LCAs are better than the MiGs which are old and parts are difficult to get, he had said.
All squadrons of Tejas will be made up of 20 planes in total, including four in reserve.
As per the plan, while 20would be inducted under the "Initial Operational Clearance", another 20 will be inducted later with Beyond Visual RangeMissile (BVR) and some other features.
IAF plans to induct over 80 aircraft with better specifications known as Tejas 1A.
The upgraded version of Tejas, with Active Electrically Scanned Array Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare Suite, mid-air refuelling capacity and advanced beyond the vision range missiles, will cost between Rs 275 crore and Rs 300 crore.
While the idea to have an indigenous fighter aircraft was conceptualised in 1970s, actual work started on the aircraft only in the 1980s and the first flight took place in January 2001.