In a major milestone, the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas has successfully fired a beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile, demonstrating its overall capability as an effective combat jet, and inched closer to receive final operational clearance.
Derby is made by the Israeli company Rafael. The Indian Navy had also purchased the Derby for its now-retired fleet of Sea Harriers.
Defence ministry officials said the test firing of the missile from a Tejas jet was carried out on Friday off the Goa coast and it met all operational requirements.
Earlier, Tejas was given clearance for deployment of armaments and other missiles.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) had ordered 40 Tejas jets in the Mark-1 version and a request for proposal (RFP) was issued to HAL by the IAF in December for procurement of another batch of 83 Tejas jets at a cost of around Rs 50,000 crore.
Officials said the successful launch of the BVR missile will expedite issuance of the final operational clearance (FOC) to the aircraft developed by state-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
"The Light Combat Aircraft successfully fired Derby air-to-air BVR range missile to expand the firing envelope as well as to demonstrate safe operation of the aircraft," the defence ministry said in a statement.
It said the missile was launched from the LCA piloted by Wing Commander Siddharth Singh on Friday from the firing range off the Goa coast after exhaustive study of the missile separation characteristics.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman complimented the DRDO and other agencies involved in making Tejas a world-class aircraft.
DRDO Chairman S. Christopher said with this firing, the Tejas has achieved another major milestone towards FOC certification.
The aircraft was tracked by two other Tejas aircraft in close formation to capture the firing event with 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).
"Based on the successful integration and demonstration, Regional Centre for Military Airworthiness (RCMA), a unit of DRDO, has cleared the series production aircraft of Squadron 45 to be equipped with Derby operational capability," the ministry said.
It said Tejas has successfully completed a series of captive flight trials to clear Derby for full operational capability.