India defence minister AK Antony believes the Hindustan Aeronautics-built Tejas Mk I fighter can achieve final operational clearance (FOC) with the Indian air force by the end of 2014.
Antony expressed his confidence in the programme during an awards event for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which designed the Tejas fighter. He called on the DRDO, air force, and HAL to "put their energy together in a focused manner to achieve this objective".
And despite India's dubious record in developing weapons systems indigenously, he stressed the need for a home-grown defence industry.
"Our experience has been that foreign vendors are reluctant to part with critical technologies," he says. "There are delays in the supply of essential spares. There are exorbitant price increases. The services, too, realise that we cannot be eternally dependent on foreign equipment and platforms."
The Tejas obtained its initial operational clearance in early 2011 before that year's Aero India show, but persistent problems with the programme have delayed the aircraft's FOC.
In early 2013, New Delhi completed a deal for 99 General Electric F414 engines, which will power the substantially upgraded Tejas Mk II - the Mk I version uses the less powerful F404. The F414 will also power a planned naval variant of the type.