December 21, 2013: With the successful completion of initial operational clearance (IOC), that officially sees the LCA Tejas released for service with the IAF, Team Tejas Mk.1 is now gunning for another, far more important milestone line—final operational clearance, a demonstration of all of the platform's stated capabilities across the mission spectrum. The team now effectively has 12 months to achieve and demonstrate a slew of capabilities and performance parameters set down in air staff requirements for the Mk.1.
As it stands, work has already begun on the FOC test points, including crucial elements like the in-flight refuelling capability and integration of a Russian 23mm cannon. For starters, the team will be looking to expand the Tejas Mk.1's flight envelope in terms of G performance and angle of attack. The stipulated performance requirement is for -3.5G to 8G and 24° angle of attack. This will require an incremental flight test schedule, but without the luxury of time. The test team will also be required to integrate and demonstrate firing of the Israeli Derby and Python air to air missiles.
While the Derby is a BVR missile, the Python is the second close combat heat-seeking missile the Tejas will be capable of deploying, following the proven Vympel R-73. Next will come the GSh-23 cannon and fresh drop tanks to aid aerodynamic performance in the supersonic flight. As reported earlier by SP's, the Tejas will also be given a new radome to ramp up electrodynamic performance. Work on FOC test points have already begun in earnest, and will be spread across three test locations in the country over the next 12 months.