The naval variant of light combat aircraft (LCA) 'Tejas' will soon undergo carrier compatibility tests at the newly commissioned shore-based test facility at the Indian naval base INS Hansa in Goa, the LCA's programme director Kota Harinarayana told TOI on Friday.
"Before we go to the ship, we have to do something on the ground that is similar to the ship," Harinarayana said, while pointing out that the shore-based test facility is primarily a ramp - similar to the ones on aircraft carriers - which facilitates ski-jump take-off and arrested landing of a naval aircraft. "The aircraft will go to the test facility in a month's time," he added.
"Apart from enabling carrier compatibility, the new facility will aid certification of the LCA naval variant, which is critical to the LCA's future induction in the Indian Navy," he said.
The LCA (Navy) is India's first indigenous effort to build a carrier-borne naval fighter aircraft, a vital ingredient in the Navy's expansion plans. It is designed to operate from future indigenous aircraft carriers that the Indian Navy plans to acquire.
Harinarayana is regarded as the chief architect of the LCA programme, which was launched in 1980 as part of the plan to replace the Indian Air Force's (IAF) ageing fleet of MIG-21 aircraft. He spoke to TOI on the sidelines of a talk on 'Aircraft designing in India', jointly organised by the Centre for Advanced Strategic Studies and the Aeronautical Society of India. Former vice-chief of air staff Air Marshal (Retd) Bhushan Gokhale chaired the event.
In December 2013, the IAF gave its operational clearance to the LCA Air Force variant and also cleared the same for full-scale production at the Hindustan Aeronautical Limited facility in Bangalore, Harinarayana said. "We expect the aircraft to be rolled out for induction into the Air Force later this year and hopefully the IAF will raise an independent squadron for the LCA," he said.
He said, "The IAF has placed an initial order of 40 LCAs which are to be delivered over the next four to five years. We have their (IAF's) commitment for another 80 to 90 LCAs in future. The Air Force and Navy collectively require 200 LCAs."
Harinarayana added that the LCA had also evinced keen interest from foreign countries. "However, our immediate focus is on meeting the Air Force and Navy's requirement for the next three years. Supply to foreign countries remains a part-commercial, part-diplomatic matter, and may still take some time to come through. The priority for now is to enhance the production capacity and to continue working on the LCA Mk-II variant, which is expected to go operational in four to five years following flight and other tests."
He conceded that both LCA variants will work on the imported GE-404 engines as it will take some more years for the indigenously developed Kaveri engine to be ready for use in these aircraft. "We still have to fully achieve the reliability and performance of the Kaveri engine. We have tested for 50 hours' flying in a transport carrier, but we still have to improve," he said.
Apart from enabling carrier compatibility, the new shore-based test facility will aid certification of the LCA naval variant, which is critical to the LCA's future induction in the Indian Navy. - Times of india