The LCA design was finalised in 1990 as a small tail-less delta winged machine with relaxed static stability (RSS) to enhance manoeuvrability performance and a host of other advanced features. A review committee was formed in May 1989 which reported that Indian infrastructure, facilities and technology had advanced sufficiently in most areas to undertake the project. It was decided that the full-scale engineering development (FSED) stage of the programme would proceed in two stages.
Phase 1 - TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATION STAGE (TD-1 & 2)
The focus in this phase was on ‘proof of concept’. It entailed the development and testing of two technology demonstrator aircraft. These aircraft were called TD-1 and TD-2. The decision to move forward was to be taken after the successful completion of this phase. This would be followed by the production of additional prototype vehicles. There were teething issues during this phase and finally TD-1 flew on 04 January 2001 with Wing Commander Rajiv Kothiyal on the controls. The significance of this golden-day in the history of Indian aviation can be gauged by the fact that the last time an indigenous aircraft had got airborne was almost 40 years ago on 17 June 1961.
Phase 2 - ADDITIONAL TESTING PHASE (PV-1, PV-2, PV-3 and PV-5)
This phase consisted of additional testing and development of systems using Prototype Vehicles which would lead to the development of the final variant that would join the IAF and the Indian Navy. The first Prototype Vehicle, PV-1 flew on 25 November 2003.
By 2005, the Tejas had proven itself in the testing phase and the first order for 20 Series Production aircrafts was placed. A follow on order for an additional 20 SP aircraft was placed in 2010.
PLANNED PRODUCTION VARIANTS
Tejas Trainer – Two-seat operational conversion trainer for the Indian Air Force.
Tejas Navy – Twin- and single-seat carrier-capable variants for the Indian Navy. The LCA's naval variant is to be ready for carrier trials by 2013 and is slated for deployment on the INS Vikramaditya as well as the Vikrant class aircraft carrier. It will be equipped for carrier operation with the capability to carry out ski-jump take-off and arrested landing. It will include strengthened airframe and landing gear and the nose is drooped for better cockpit vision.
SP-1 to SP-40 Planned for start in 2013