Mid-air Refuelling Current Affairs - 2020

First wet mid-air refuelling of LCA Tejas successfully carried out using IL-78 MKI tanker

Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully carried out first ever mid-air refuelling of indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas MK-1 over Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. With this, India joins in elite group of countries which have successfully developed air-to-air refuelling system for military aircraft.

LCA Tejas mid-air refuelling

It was first wet mid-air refuelling of LCA Tejas (LSP8) carried out by transferring 1,900 kg of fuel from IAF’s Russian-origin Ilyushin-78 (IL-78) tanker at altitude of 20,000 feet. This operation had refueled all internal tanks and drop tanks of LCA Tejas.

Before this wet contact trial, IAF had successfully conducted ‘dry-air refuelling contact trials’ where drogue (basket) extended from tanker aircraft IL-78 by fuel hose, which was only tracked and plugged into using LCA’s Tejas’ refuelling probe without transfering fuel.


With this first trial of air-to-air refueling, LCA gets much closer to important battle-ready tag, called final operational clearance (FOC). Besides, air-to-air refuelling capability for LCA will be force multiplier for IAF as it enhances potential of aircraft to stay airborne for much longer periods of time, thus increasing its range and endurance. It will also enable IAF options to exploit operational potential of LCA as well as to participate in international exercises without having to stop or stage through several locations enroute.


IAF currently operates nine LC Tejas fighters built to Initial Operating Clearance (IOC) standard built indigenously by Hindustan Aeronautical Limited. These jets are being flown by No. 45 Squadron named Flying Daggers (It is first LCA Tejas Squadron) based at Sulur Air Force Station in Tamil Nadu. IAF has placed ordered of 123 LCA Tejas variants at cost of Rs 70, 000 crores to Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL). Among the 123 planes on order, 20 each are in IOC and more advanced final operational clearance (FOC) configurations, while remaining 83 are in Mk-1A configuration that comes with additional improvements

Indian Air Force successfully carries first-ever mid-air refuelling of LCA Tejas

Indian Air Force (IAF) has successfully carried out first ever midair refuelling of indigenously developed light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas. The midair refuelling test conducted involved dry linkup, meaning no fuel was actually transferred between IAF Il-78 tanker and Tejas fighter jet through its air-to-air refuelling probe.

Key Facts

For this test, Russian-built IL-78 MKI tanker was launched from IAF’s base in Agra while LCA Tejas fighter was launched from Gwalior. Nine more tests will be held which will also include wet tests where actual transfer of fuel takes place from IAF tanker to fighter jet. The success of these midair refuelling trials will be major leap for indigenous fighter which will help in enhancing its mission capability by increasing its range and payload. . The ability to carry out air-to-air refuelling is also one of critical requirements for LCA Tejas to achieve final operational clearance .

LCA Tejas

LCA Tejas is lightweight single-seat multi-role jet fighter, powered by single engine. It has tailess and compound delta wing design made entirely of composite structures. It is pegged as world’s smallest and lightest supersonic fighter aircraft in its class.

It is first advanced fly-by-wire Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) designed, developed and manufactured indigenously by state owned Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) as part of LCA programme, started in 1980s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters. It was named ‘Tejas’, which means ‘radiance’, by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It took total of 20 years from 1993 to 2013 for building this aircraft.  Its maiden flight took place in 2001.

Advance Features: LCA Tejas is equipped with quadruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system to ease handling by the pilot. It also has digital computer-based attack system and autopilot mode. It is also equipped with satellite-aided Inertial Navigation System.

Stealth Features: It has many features of stealth fighter aircraft. Its radar cross section is very less compared to other aircrafts like MiG-29, F-16 due to its small size and extensive usage of carbon composits.  It incorporates glass cockpit in which pilot is feed with real time information. It also has open architecture software for avionics which can be easily updated as and when required.

Range: It has limited reach of little over 400-km and will be mainly used for close air-to-ground operations (unlike Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKIs or Rafale which have deep strike capability into enemy territory due to their long range).

Weaponry: It can fire air-to-air missiles, carry bombs and precision guided ammunition.DRDO has successfully tested fired Tejas with different kinds of weaponry and missiles including R-73 air-to-air missile, bomb dropping (including laser guided bombs). In future, DRDO also plans test firing of indigenous Astra missile and guns from the Tejas.

Operations: LCA Tejas had commenced operations from Sulur Air Force Station in Tamil Nadu in July 2018, two years after it was formally inducted into IAF. The fighter jet is part of ‘Flying Daggers’ of 45 Squadron of IAF. Southern Air Command based in Kerala capital Thiruvananthapuram has been entrusted with responsibility of integrating fighter aircraft in IAF’s concept of operations.