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The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has achieved a significant milestone in the development of the Tejas Mk2 as it received formal authority to commence work on the prototype. This comes after concluding the engine deal with GE Aerospace, a crucial step towards realizing the next-generation fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF). As per an aggressive schedule, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be responsible for manufacturing six prototypes to meet the set timeline agreed upon by the IAF, ADA, and HAL.

The development plan entails manufacturing six prototypes to achieve Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) standards within three years from the first flight. This tight timeline is strategically designed to streamline the production process and ensure the aircraft enters production within a small window of time. With the formal authority in place, the prototype’s work is progressing well, and it is slated to take flight in 2025. Subsequently, five more prototypes will be developed at intervals of 6-8 months, a move aimed at fast-tracking the program.

The first three prototypes will be almost production-ready aircraft, focusing on developmental flight trials and certifying all systems and equipment onboard before granting production clearance. The remaining three prototypes will concentrate on weapons trials, specifically the Phase-I weapons clearance, involving the certification of two Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface weapon systems as mandated. The IAF has agreed to certify additional weapons at the Squadron level, which will be integrated over the next five years after the Tejas Mk2’s induction, expected sometime around 2029-2030.

Sources familiar with the matter have informed that all weapons systems will be qualified by 2035, with the Tejas Mk2 poised to replace some of the older Mig-29s and Jaguars in the IAF fleet. ADA is confident in meeting the demanding deadline due to approximately 60 per cent of the aircraft components, including major systems, being developed in India. This emphasis on indigenous content is a strategic step towards enhancing self-reliance in defence production.

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