In a big step in its development cycle, India’s home-grown Tejas fighter jet today refueled mid-air from an Indian Air Force tanker aircraft for the first time.
The sortie, flown by test pilot Group Captain Rajeev Joshi of the National Flight Test Centre, is a key step in expanding the range of the single engine fighter for it to receive its Final Operational Clearance (FOC) certificate.
The test conducted on Tuesday, shortly after 1 pm, involved a ‘dry’ link up. In other words, there was no fuel which was actually exchanged between the Indian Air Force Il-78 tanker and the Tejas fighter through its air-to-air refuelling probe. Nine further tests will be conducted to validate this capability including ‘wet’ tests when fuel is transferred from the tanker to the fighter. The air-to-air refuelling probe of the Tejas has been designed by the international aerospace systems major Cobham.
According to sources, the Tejas fighter perfectly replicated computer simulations of mid-air refuelling which have been carried out on the ground by engineers associated with the Tejas programme.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) currently operates nine Tejas fighters built to an Initial Operating Clearance (IOC) standard. These jets are being flown by No. 45 Squadron, the Flying Daggers, based at Sulur Air Force Station in Tamil Nadu.
The IAF has 40 Tejas Mk1 fighters on order and will acquire another 83 Tejas Mk-1A fighters which will be more capable than the handful of fighters which have been developed.
A more sophisticated variant of the jet, the Tejas Mk-2 is also under development but is unlikely to fly before 2022.
By : NDTV
Image credits : Tarmak007