Strongly backing the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) programme, Defence Minister A K Antony today said the LCA would obtain Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) by this year-end.
Antony said that when he took over as Defence Minister, there was "all round scepticism" about the project, with critics — apparently referring to "inordinate delay" and technological challenges — questioning its continuation and dubbing it a "total failure".
"All the doubting Thomases have proved to be wrong", he said after witnessing the flight display of the twin-seater trainer version prototype (PV5) and another belonging to the limited series production-2 of the LCA programme.
"Today I can assure you with confidence....I can declare at last LCA is going to be a reality", Antony said, adding the IOC of Tejas would take place by December this year and final clearance by the end of 2012.
He said the LCA has completed all its trials as well as at the sea-level. IAF has already placed orders for delivery of 20 LCAs. Orders for another 20 has been cleared (by the ministry), for which the Cabinet nod would be sought.
Antony said the Cabinet Committee on Security had sanctioned nearly Rs 8,000 crore for further development of the LCA programme in terms of air and naval versions and new engine.