India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) declared on 8 May that the locally designed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mk I was "operationally deficient" and its pilots vulnerable even to 7.62 mm rounds fired at the fighter's front end.
In the 63-page report tabled in parliament, Shashi Kant Sharma revealed that the long-delayed LCA Mk I, which obtained its second initial operational clearance (IOC-2) in December 2013, had failed to meet the Indian Air Force's (IAF's) air staff requirements on numerous counts.
It disclosed that to secure IOC-2, the LCA Mk I - under development by the state-run Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) since 1983 - had to be granted 53 waivers, of which 20 were permanent.
The latter would remain, the CAG said, even after the platform secured its final operational clearance (FOC) scheduled for December 2015. IAF sources said FOC was likely to be deferred.
The LCA Mk I obtained its first IOC from the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification in Bangalore in January 2011, only for it to be re-confirmed in 2013 by the definitive IOC-2.
The persistent shortcomings, some of which were still under design, development, and testing, include excessive weight, engine thrust, reduced internal fuel capacity, non-compliance of all-weather operations, non-achievement of single-point defueling fuel system protection, and pilot protection. They restrict the "operational efficiency and survivability of the aircraft, thereby limiting its employability when inducted into IAF squadrons", the report said.
It is also "deficient in electronic warfare (EW) capabilities as specified by the IAF, as the self-protection jammer could not be fitted on the aircraft due to space constraints", the report stated.