It is indeed a proud moment for the Indian aerospace community when the Light Combat Aircraft – Tejas (LCA) attained its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) on 10 January 2011. The Indian Defence Minister formally handed over the ‘Certificate of Release to Service’ to the Indian Chief of Air Staff, thus setting the stage for the formal induction of LCA in the Indian Air Force.
LCA, the first indigenous fighter aircraft, has taken almost three decades to attain this stage. The father of LCA, Kota Harinaryana and his successors have been steadfast in their resolve to bring to fruition what LCA is today. For the naysayers, it has been a very long time in making, while for the proud aeronautical scientists and engineers, it has been a learning curve from the drawing board stage to its maiden flight and now the IOC, to maintain LCA’s state-of-the-art advantage for a single seater fourth generation combat aircraft.
As for the Aviation Medical community is concerned, besides the vital contributions made by IAM, there shall be a need for aeromedical evaluation in the field. This required studies in two broad areas – physical comfort in the cockpit and performance enhancement. The former may include studying the on-board environmental control and life support systems; besides the acceleration profiles for defining the centrifuge training. More importantly, there shall be the need to study the human factors issues, including performance and mental workload assessment as per the defined ops role of the aircraft.
There may still be refinements required, so also improvements may be needed based on inputs from the field. Yet, LCA has been a labour of love for its developing agency, Aeronautical Development Agency, and for once, Indian nation, naysayers included, can all can bask in the glory of seeing LCA take to skies towards its operational role in near future.