Speaking to Mathrubhumi, Cmde Balaji (Retd) said the aircraft build standard to FOC configuration is available and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will proceed to build the next 20, after completing first Series Production platforms (20).
“The flight testing of Tejas with air-to-air-refuelling probe is in progress. The performance evaluation of radar has been encouraging. The air-to-ground weapon work has been largely completed. Accuracy improvements in terms of software update is currently on,” Cmde Balaji (Retd) said.
He said the firing of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile with radar is being planned shortly, while the gun firing is now fixed for the second quarter of 2017. He added that the aircraft envelope clearance for Squadron service has been progressively released, even for first set of 20 aircraft.
Giving an update on Tejas Mk2, Cmde Balaji (Retd) the aircraft will be configured for a higher thrust engine, AESA Radar, internal EW suite, OBOGS, larger internal fuel capacity, larger payload capability and better performance.
On LCA Navy Mk2, he said the concept design for an optimised deck-based aircraft, has been completed and detail design is in progress.
When asked about any regrets he had as he prepares to hand over the baton of ADA, Cmde Balaji (Retd) said: “While significant lead up activities towards arrested recovery has been done (NLCA), the actual arrested recovery is yet to take place. I would have liked to have seen it happen in my tenure, but got delayed due to a few failures of aggregates. Further, the apparent rejection by the Indian Navy is hurtful.”
He said while the Navy has operated carrier borne aircraft for decades, it is the first time to develop our own aircraft.
SBTF an asset to watch for the future
“From personal experience I can confidently say that operating a carrier borne aircraft gives one level of knowledge, but developing it from scratch is an entirely different ball game. LCA Navy Mk1 has provided a stepping stone for developing an optimised version specifically designed for Deck based operation in terms of LCA Navy Mk2. This will provide a design and capability that the Navy may be able to consider favourably for exploitation. In addition, this will provide the necessary skills and capabilities for the development of twin-engined, 5th generation deck-based aircraft,” he elaborated.
Cmde Balaji (Retd) said the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at Goa will be an asset to watch for the future.
“This facility has been built keeping the requirements of a medium weight category aircraft to operate. Navy has been using this facility extensively for pilot training of MiG 29K, prior to operating on INS Vikramaditya,” he added.