South Asia

Fit to fly: The Tejas, first India-designed fighter jet

Tejas

The first Indian-designed fighter jet, the Tejas, has been declared fit to fly 26 years after it was first conceived.

The defence minister announced in Bangalore that the supersonic jet had won initial operational clearance.

Built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the Tejas - meaning radiant - is expected to replace the ageing fleet of Russian MIG-21s.

It is not the first Indian-made fighter jet - that was the HF-24 Marut, which was also built by HAL, in 1961.

The Tejas was designed and manufactured in India, although some technologies, such as its engine and radar, have been imported.

The Indian Air Force has already placed orders with government-owned HAL, India's sole aircraft maker, for 40 of the jets.

The first 20-strong squadron of the light combat aircraft is expected to be inducted by 2012-13.

Missile capability

Indian Defence Minister AK Antony approved the jet with Chief Marshal P V Naik at HAL airport in the southern Indian technological hub of Bangalore on Monday.

The clearance is a major milestone in the fourth generation aircraft's development, which began in 1985.

The Tejas is touted by Indian defence officials as the smallest lightweight, single-engine, tactical fighter aircraft in the world.

The fighter - which can carry air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons - has been long delayed by technological hurdles.

US sanctions imposed after India carried out nuclear tests in 1998 further stalled development of the jet.

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