India’s first indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), designed specifically for the Navy, rolled out from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) facility in Bangalore on 6.07.2010.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony described the milestone as “memorable” and urged the project team to conduct the first flight of NP1, the LCA trainer aircraft (Navy), by 2010 year-end.
By 2015, the aircraft will be deployed aboard the indigenous aircraft carrier that is being built at the Cochin Shipyard. The LCA has to undergo systems integration tests, ground runs, taxi trials and eventually flights, before it will be ready for deployment, officials said.
The aircraft, developed under the auspices of the Naval Programme of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), will fly with a U.S.-made engine. It has been designed to make ‘ski jump’ take-off and arrested landings aboard an aircraft carrier. A source in the ADA said the aircraft required “a new design” that would “knock out 300-400 kg from the next prototype.”
The NP2, the aircraft being specially designed for the Navy, is expected to fly for the first time in 2011, sources said.
HAL Chairman Ashok Nayak said the team has “taken longer [time] than planned earlier because of several technical challenges, important of them being “designing an integrated fuel tank and bigger landing gear.” He sought “early go-ahead” from the government for the next prototype, pointing out that the lead time for this would be three years.
Mr. Antony said the Shore Based Test Facility at the naval air base in Goa was being used to simulate take-offs and arrested landings aboard carriers. It would also train pilots of the LCA’s naval version. “It is already being used for training pilots aboard MiG-29K fighter jets, bought from Russia, which are to be deployed aboard aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.”
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma said the LCA induction would give the Navy a “multidimensional force capability.” R.K. Singh, Secretary, Defence Production, said the HAL would need to create separate production lines to keep pace with the defence requirements. The HAL would have a role to play in the development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft and the medium combat aircraft, a multirole stealth fighter.
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