"The initial operational clearance was obtained in December 2013 and the production of Tejas has commenced. The first squadron is expected to be delivered by 2017-18," a defence ministry official said.

"Efforts are underway to enhance the production capability," the official added. However, the full operational clearance for the LCA is still pending and is now expected by December 2015.

A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) tabled in the just-concluded budget session of parliament said that due to the delay in the manufacture and supply of the LCA, the IAF forced force to take alternative and temporary measures such as upgrading its MiG-21s, MiG-29s, Jaguars, and Mirage aircraft at a cost of Rs. 20,037 crore (over $3 billion) and revise the phasing out of the Soviet-era MiG-21s.

The LCA programme was sanctioned in 1983 with a development schedule of eight to 10 years against the IAF's requirement of induction by 1994.

Subsequently, the project missed many deadlines, mainly on account of design changes necessitated due to changes in weapon requirements, non-availability of the indegenous Kaveri engine, delay in completion of work packages and the like.

The CAG report also criticised LCA for its limited "operational capabilities" and being "overweight", largely due to the 53 concessions/permanent waivers the project had undergone.

In a written reply in the Rajya Sabha last week, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had blamed factors like "non-availability of trained manpower, non-availability of infrastructure and test facilities, unanticipated technical complexities faced in structural design and non-availability of critical components, equipment, or material and denial of technologies" by the advanced countries.

He also blamed "enhanced user's requirements or change in specifications during development", "increase in the scope of work", and "inadequate production facilities at HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Kimited)" for the delays.

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