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18 Squadron, named “Flying Bullet” Operating With the initial four Tejas fighter jets at the Sulur airbase in Tamil Nadu, Air Chief Marshal R KS Bhadauria took to the skies on a single layoff to demonstrate the indigenous fighter’s commitment with the IAF.
During the 1971 conflict with Pakistan, 18 Squadron flying officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon was posthumously awarded the Paramvir Chakra, the country’s highest war-gallantry medal. The squadron was later “number-plated (temporarily retired)” in 2016 before being revived now for Tejas fighters.
Since being commissioned in 2016, the first squadron of 16 Tejas fighters, 45 Squadron or “Flying Daggers” is also based on Sulur. While it is equipped with Tejas fighters in IOC (Initial Operational Clearance) configuration, 18 Squadron. Get the more advanced FOC (final operational clearance) version.
HAL chief Madhavan said, “The FOC version additionally comes with air-to-air refueling capability, close combat guns, additional fuel drop tanks, visible range (BVR) missile capability, updated Avionics and flight control software suite is.”
Both these squadrons will receive 40 Tejas Mark-1 fighter aircraft, which were slated for delivery under two contracts worth Rs 8,802 crore as of December 2016.
The 83 Tejas Mark-1A jets, of which deliveries will begin three years after contracting, are slated to “improve” 43 on the Mark-1 jets to maintain stability. The jets will also have existing mechanically steering radars, long-range BVR missiles and AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars to replace advanced electronic warfare to jam enemy radars and missiles.
After these 123 fighters, the IAF 170 intends to include the Tejas Mark-2 or MWF (medium-weight fighter) jets with more powerful engines and advanced avionics.
But it will take years to rebuild the Tejas Mark-2 and the indigenous stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft project called the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). For now, the IAF is banking on the first 123 Tejas to add strength to its fighter squadron, which is just 30 (18 jets each) when at least 42 are required for the expected detention against Pakistan and China. .
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