Bengaluru: India's Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas MK I was signalled "combat ready" on Wednesday and was accorded with the Final Operational Clearance (FOC).

G Satheesh Reddy, the secretary defence R&D and chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) made the formal declaration of FOC of the aircraft.

The handing over of the FOC Certificate and Release to Service Document (RSD) to the Chief of Air Staff was done during the Aero India 2019 inaugural programme in the presence of the defence secretary, HAL chairman and chief of CEMILAC (Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification), and others.

An official release said that the FOC involves the addition of essential capabilities to the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) aircraft, which in main are Beyond Visual Range Missile capabilities, Air-to-Air Refuelling, Air-to-Ground FOC earmarked weapons and general flight envelope expansion.

The RSD provides the capabilities, features and technologies that FOC standard Aircraft will have on induction into the IAF, it said.

The FOC standard aircraft drawings have already been handed over to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to start production after incorporating key changes over the IOC standard Aircraft, the release said.

Congratulating all the organisations involved in the Tejas project, Reddy said, "This is the best moment for any aeronautical engineers and a landmark day for the country's scientists, industry and the air force."

Speaking to reporters, Reddy recalled the contribution of his predecessors, and officers involved in the project. The Initial Operational Clearance took place in 2013, and IOC standard aircraft were inducted into the IAF No 45 Squadron in July 2016, which has successfully hovered over 1500 sorties since then.

Calling the FOC a "major milestone", Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said, "You saw how much the aircraft could fly, the number of sorties it could generate in exercise Gagan Shakti in April 2018 and in February this year. In exercise Vayu Shakti we showed you as to how accurately this aircraft could dispense weapons on the target. It can not only sustain a very high sortie rate but can also carry on very accurate weapon delivery."

"It is a fighter aeroplane, and it has to behave like a fighter, and it did well both in the air to air and air to ground," he added.

To a question about more orders for the aircraft, Dhanoa said the request for the proposal would be issued for 83 LCA MK 1A, which is estimated to be about Rs 50,000 crore.

"Not only that we will have to take LCA MK 2 which in the days ahead will replace the Jaguar, Mirage and MiG 29. After that, we will go to Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft," he said.

Agencies involved in the design, development and production of Tejas are Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the autonomous society of DRDO as the design agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as the manufacturer.

Many other DRDO laboratories, such as ADE, GTRE, LRDE, CEMILAC, BEL, CSIR, DG-AQA, and private sector agencies have contributed to the journey of the LCA.