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India Joins Elite Club Possessing Air-to-Air Fighter Jet Refueling Capability

India’s long-delayed Tejas fighter jet program has successfully demonstrated its air-to-air refueling capability during a trial involving an Ilyushin Il-78MKI tanker. The fighter jet used a Cobham-supplied refueling probe to connect with the tanker's hose-and-drogue system.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has successfully completed air-to-air refueling in actual terms on the domestically built fighter aircraft Tejas MK1 with an IL-78 MKI tanker. India's state-owned aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) announced that Tejas had successfully completed the wet (actual) engagement on Monday by transferring 1,900 kilograms of fuel from the IAF IL78 mid-air refueling tanker.

"The refueling was carried out at an altitude of 20000 ft. The aircraft's speed was 270 knots and all the internal tanks and drop tanks were refuelled," HAL's statement read.

Earlier, on September 4 and 6, dry docking of the aerial refueling probe with a mother tanker was carried out successfully as a precursor to the actual wet engagement.

The successful refueling test is being considered a big leap in the developmental stage and brightens the chances of the fighter jet getting final operational clearance certificate sooner.
"With this, India joins the elite group of countries who have developed the Air-to-Air (AAR) refuelling system for military class of aircraft," R. Madhavan, CMD, HAL said.

Despite claiming recent successes, such as the integration of I-Derby beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and other avionics, Tejas is running far behind schedule to secure final operational clearance from the Indian Air Force in December this year.

Other than the slow progress on the development of a combat-ready version of Tejas, the pace of production has become slower at the manufacturing facility of HAL in Bengaluru.

As per the 2006 deal between the HAL and the Indian Air Force, all the contracted 20 Tejas fighter jets of an initial operational clearance standard were supposed to be delivered by 2011, but to date HAL has delivered only nine jets. Further, in 2010, HAL received an order of 20 aircraft in combat ready mode and the scheduled delivery was 2016. But, the state-owned firm has not been able to obtain the final operational clearance to date from the air force. Nevertheless, the Indian Air Force's unhesitant support for the home-grown fighter jet is evident from the fact that it plans to acquire an additional 83 Tejas in an enhanced MK1A configuration.

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