The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is all set undertake critical test flights carrying an array of missiles and bombs to complete its scheduled weapon trials. Top sources with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed to this Correspondent that the integration of Russian-made Close Combat Missile (CCM) R-73 has been completed.
The ground integration of the Israeli-made CMM Python-5 too has been completed ahead of the flight trials. The Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile Derby has also been integrated on to the aircraft. Tejas can carry two CCMs with a range of 15 km at the extreme end pods. These missiles can home on to the enemy aircraft based on their heat signature.
The Derby (two missiles) is being integrated on the mid-board-pods of Tejas and they have a range varying between 80 and 100 km. The home-grown fighter carries the laser-guided bomb (LGB) Griffin, which has a range of 5-6 km. Tejas will also carry LGB Paveway, which according to sources, has already demonstrated its capabilities with an accuracy of 1 meter. “These missiles have demonstrated their capabilities to strike with precision during day and night,” says an official.
BVR missiles to be tested in July
The laser-designator pod also has been integrated on to the aircraft. “Tejas can carry drop tanks with 1200-litre and 800-725-litre capacity. The R-73 has completed flight trials in Goa, Jaisalmer and Jamnagar over 10 times. The LGB has been tested for six times now,” the official said. The BVR testes scheduled to be held in May has now been fixed for July at forward bases. “The CCMs and BVRs used on Tejas are capable of SSKP (Single Shot Kill Probability). In a war scenario, the pilot can increase the kill probability by opting for firing both CCMs, or both BVRs together,” the official added. The integration of Russian-made gun for Tejas Gsh-23 has been completed. The gun has been already ground tested at a facility in Nasik.
FOC may spill over to March 2016?
When asked whether Tejas would skip the December 2015 deadline for Final Operational Clearance (FOC), the top MoD official said: “There are still some passing clouds hanging around. But the teams from Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) are confident of beating the deadline.” However, another official told this Correspondent that the programme might skip the December deadline by maximum three months. “May be it will spill over to the last quarter of this FY. The FOC will be in by March 2016,” he said.
Refueling probe, nose cone radome awaited
To complete the FOC points, the air-to-air refueling probe from Cobham hasn’t arrived yet. The nose cone quartz radome too is being awaited. There are already some rumours floating around in the corridors of HAL and ADA over the delay in accessing these pending foreign systems. A Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) official says that they are hopeful of thrashing the issue. “Definitely there are concerns. But, we are hoping to get clarity by July. Hopefully, we should have access to all hardware within a month. We don’t see any more technology challenges after the integration of these pending items,” says the senior DRDO official. ADA says that almost 75 per cent of work related to FOC has been completed. The siblings of Tejas have completed 2971 flights so far logging around 1909 hours, at the time this piece went live on the web.