The first production unit of the indigenous Tejas fighter in its 'final operational clearance' standard made its maiden flight in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited released a press statement noting that the aircraft was flown by retired air commodore K.A. Muthana from the HAL Airport. The aircraft flew for approximately 40 minutes.
The Tejas aircraft in the FOC standard are cleared to conduct air-to-air refuelling and launch beyond-visual-range missiles. The first aircraft was seen with its air-to-air refuelling probe extended.
According to HAL, the FOC-standard Tejas fighter "imbibes" a lot of manufacturing improvements based on operational feedback from the 'initial operational clearance'-standard aircraft.
HAL plans to produce and deliver 15 fighters in the FOC standard in the next financial year.
The Indian Air Force had agreed to buy a total of 40 Tejas fighters, with 20 in the initial operational clearance standard, and 20 in the FOC standard. The production of the IOC-standard fighters was completed in March 2019. These IOC-standard fighters are based at an Indian Air Force squadron near Coimbatore.
HAL and the Indian Air Force have been negotiating an order for 83 units of the 'MK-1A' standard of the Tejas; the deal is estimated to be worth around $5.5 billion. These jets will have improved avionics and weapons. Flight testing of the Tejas MK1A standard is scheduled to be completed by 2022.