India’s first home-built fighter jet enters service

New Delhi—India’s first locally-built combat aircraft officially took to the skies on Friday, 33 years after it was cleared for development, marking a long-held goal of cutting expensive imports to build a domestic defence-industrial base.
India’s fighter aircraft fleet, made up of a mix of Russian, British and French planes, is down to 33 squadrons as against the air force’s requirement of 45 to face Pakistan and China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has nudged the military to accept the first version of the “Tejas” Light Combat Aircraft to make up for the shortfall while a more powerful subsequent model is under development.
Indian Air Force officers broke coconuts and priests held multi-faith ceremonies to mark the induction of two planes in the southern city of Bengaluru. Later, the aircraft took off in the colours of the air force as fire tenders sprayed water on he tarmac in a military ritual.
“Moment of national pride. Indigenously developed Tejas fighter jet inducted into Air Force. Tejas will take our air strength to new heights,” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has led the drive for indigenisation, said in a Twitter post.
Early this month China said it is still testing its first stealth fighter, the J-20, but it would enter service soon.
The single-seat Indian fighter is considered superior to counterparts like the JF-17 aircraft jointly built by China and Pakistan. Tejas has had no accident in 3,000 hours of flying and its use of composites helps lower its radar signature, making it harder to detect early, air force officials said.—Reuetrs

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