Second LCA-Tejas Mk1 squadron will be based at Srinagar Air Force Station said a reliable Industrial source close to most likely from 2022 onwards which will replace Mig-21Bis squadron currently stationed at the forward airbase closer to Pakistan occupied Kashmir once they are retired in phases from 2020 onwards.

SP-21 which is Final operational clearance (FOC) configuration LCA-Tejas Mk1 aircraft under development at HAL facility in Bangalore will have its first flight in next two months and SP-21 along with SP-22, SP-23 and SP-24 will form the base for the second No. 18 (Flying Bullets) LCA-Tejas squadron which will be formally inducted post deliveries of first four FOC configuration aircrafts happen by March 2020.

From SP-22 to SP-26 are various stages of development and are on final assembly rigs in HAL Facility and all 16 (SP-21 to SP-36) FOC LCA-Tejas Mk1 aircraft will be part of Second Squadron to be based in Sulur Air Force Station near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu after No. 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers) which operates 16 IOC-II LCA-Tejas Mk1 aircraft moves to forward air force base in Rajasthan near Pakistan border by early 2021.

The No. 18 Squadron (Flying Bullets) was number-plated (the official name for decommissioning of a squadron in the IAF) in 2016. No. 18 Squadron flew Mikoyan MiG-27ML until the aircraft was withdrawn and operated from Kalaikunda Air Force Station in West Bengal. No. 18 Squadron to be re-raised will replace No. 51 Squadron “Sword Arms” or “Falcon Slayers” which is equipped with MiG-21Bison and based at Srinagar Air Force Station.

No. 18 Squadron (Flying Bullets) will initially be based in Sulur Air Force Station after its formation post-March 2020 with four aircraft and will move to Srinagar AFS by mid or end of 2022 when all 16 aircraft are handed over to them. HAL plans to complete deliveries of the first four aircraft by March 2020 and 12 more by March 2021.

Placement of two squadrons both closer to the Pakistani border shows immense trust in the combat capabilities of the indigenously developed LCA-Tejas Mk1. Though IAF will initially have only two squadrons of Tejas with 20 fighters each, it plans to order an additional 83 of them as Mark-1A version which comes with additional capabilities and AESA Radar. 4 FOC Certificated LCA-Tejas trainer variant each for first and second squadron will be delivered from 2021-22 onwards.

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