Bangalore, Jun 7 (DC): The made-in-India fighter jet ‘Tejas’ has hit an air pocket while on its home-stretch after Kargil hero Air Commodore Rohit Varma, the man who piloted the flight tests programme ahead of its induction by the Indian Air Force (IAF), put in his papers after the IAF overlooked him for promotion as Air Vice Marshal twice in successive years.
Confirming Air Commodore Varma’s resignation, Director of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), P.S. Subramanyam told Deccan Chronicle, “We will miss an experienced person, but his resignation will not affect the programme as the IAF has its own succession plans. Of course during the transition, some momentum will be lost.”
Sources said though the combat jet has completed more than 1600 sorties (almost 1000 hours of flying), several key tests like wake penetration, flying at extremely high angles, and extensive use of radar and onboard missiles are behind schedule.
“The chief of air staff wanted these tests to be completed before June, but that is now unlikely,” the sources added. The maiden flight of the naval version of ‘Tejas’ is also delayed. It was originally scheduled for end-2010 or early 2011, but even ground tests of the prototype have not commenced so far.
As head of the Bengaluru-based National Flight Test Centre, Air Cmde Varma has not only flown some 70 sorties of ‘Tejas’ but played a critical role during flights over the sea, in trying weather conditions in Rajasthan and Leh as well as the firing of onboard missiles.
The Light Combat Aircraft set a new record, flying at 1,350 kmph off the coast of Goa during some of these sorties.
Apart from more than 4,000 hours of flying fighter jets like MiG-21 and Mirage-2000 to his credit, the ace pilot had a role in the armed forces regaining control of Tiger Hills during the Kargil conflict in 1999.
He reportedly flew several sorties at night to hit enemy positions with laser guided bombs.