The Light Combat aircraft fly during the inauguration of the Aero India 2009 in Bangalore.
BANGALORE: A quarter of a century after the project was conceived and being dubbed “as more trouble than its worth”, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ on Wednesday proved the theory that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel, right.
The LCA, on the inaugural day of Aero India 2009, put up a flawless flight display and performed “neverseen- before” manoeuvres, which drew applause.
The take-off LCA from the Air Force Station Yelahanka tarmac was like any of 1,000-odd its has done since its maiden flight on January 4, 2001, but what was in store for the next 10 minutes showed the progress of not just the LCA project, but the indegenisation of India’s defence programme.
The LCA showed the capability of the aircraft and put any doubts to rest.
After viewing its performance, an excited Defence Minister A K Antony praised the show put up by the all those involved in the project.
“In the last 10 years, there has been a lot of noise made about the project about and why India is still continuing its experiments. Now I have hope that we can induct it to the IAF as the performance today by the LCA was the most exciting event of the day,” he said.
India plans to begin work on an upgraded version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, with industry aiming to start deliveries of these "Mark II" aircraft after the first 40 have been manufactured.
"The LCA Mark 2 will have a bigger and more powerful engine, the fuselage will be changed, it will have bigger wings, and the aircraft will be more aerodynamic," says Hindustan Aeronautics chairman Ashok Baweja, whose company manufactures the fighter. "There are upgrades down the line in every global fighter programme and that is the case with the Tejas as well."
He adds that HAL will deliver 40 LCAs to the Indian Air Force in the Mark I configuration - 20 in the fighter configuration and 20 in the trainer configuration . The IAF is expected to eventually order up to 220 LCAs and the Indian navy another 20, and the remaining aircraft will be in the Mark II configuration.
A naval version of the LCA will fly within a year, although this version of the aircraft still faces numerous challenges, says Baweja.
The Tejas, which was developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency, has been in the works for more than a decade. It has faced several delays due to problems with the aircraft's design and the development of an indigenous engine. The IAF refused to commit to the LCA until 2003, and has only ordered 20 due to worries about the aircraft's capabilities. Over 1,000 test flights have now been completed on the six prototypes, and the ADA has decided to buy an international engine, most likely the General Electric GE-F414, to power the fighter.
The indigenously made light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas which is likely to be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) by next year or early 2011 would be carrying out heavy weapon testing immediately after the ongoing 7th edition of AeroIndia show here .
“We would be carrying out heavy weapon testing immediately after this AeroIndia show and we would be carrying 1000 lb bombs,” Group Captain N Tiwari who has been flying these aircraft at the National Flight Testing Centre (NFTC) told The Statesman.
The successful display of the LCA at the air show encouraged the defence minister, Mr AK Antony, and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Fali H Major, to be confident that the fighter aircraft would be inducted into the IAF at a time when it is planning to purchase 126 combat aircraft for which trials are to begin by April.
“We had started weapon testing two years back and we have just started air to ground tests,” said Group Captain Tiwari who is at the airshow with his team which had tested the Tejas fighter in both hot and cold weather conditions. The hot weather trials were held at the Air Force Station (AFS) at Nagpur last year while the sea level trials were conducted at INS Rajali, Arakkonam and Close Combat Missile (CCM) firing at INS Hansa, Goa.
On the test flight of the Tejas at Leh which he had undertaken, Group Captain Tiwari said, “There was no major problem and everything looked better than planned. We were very worried whether the aircraft would start at the high altitude but there was no problem. We left it overnight in Leh and everything was fine though the temperature was between -14 degrees Celsius and -16 degrees Celsius and the altitude was 10,300 feet. It took us two days for acclimatisation and only on the third day could be carry out the test flight.”
Elaborating on the testing, he said, “All our performance targets were met easily. It was more an evaluation of the systems ~ that was the basic intent of the exercise.”
On the aircraft’s ability to cope with hot weather conditions, he said “there too we had no problems. Despite the heat with the temperature touching nearly 45 degrees Celsius, the cockpit remained cool.” On night flying, he said the aircraft has completed the first phase which was done here and the final phase would be undertaken soon.
LCA naval version to fly this year
By Kalyan Ray, DH News Service, Bangalore:
The first prototype of the naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is expected to fly towards the end of 2009.
Within a few months of the first flight, a second prototype of the naval LCA will also take to the skies, P S Subramanyam, director of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Bangalore, which is developing the fighter, told Deccan Herald here.
The first version of the naval LCA will be a twin-seater trainer version, whereas the second naval LCA will be a fighter. Both are mark-I versions with limited capabilities and additional weight.
A mark-II variation of the naval LCA is also under development and scheduled to be realised by 2014-15, Subramanyam said.
The naval LCA, meant for future aircraft carriers, will have arrester-hooks using which a fighter plan can land on the dock, and immediately come to a complete halt. The existing Indian aircraft carrier INS Virat does not use this technology. instead it uses traditional ramps for take-off and landing.
But future carriers, including INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) and the indigenous aircraft carrier, will have arrester-hook. While the former will have MiG-29K as the on-board fighters, the choice is wide open for the indigenous carrier.
Interestingly, even before the first flight of the naval LCA, the navy has agreed to invest 30 per cent of the development cost for the LCA mark-II naval version, he said.
For testing the LCA naval mark-II version, ADA is developing a three km long shore-based test facility in Goa which will take another three years to complete.
Once INS Vikramaditya is inducted in the navy, naval LCA will also have to undergo a carrier compatibility test on-board. Intensive testings are required to improved the mark-II version. Developmental work for the naval LCA was sanctioned in 2002, and nearly Rs 1000 crore sanctioned, in 2003-04. The naval version will have the same weapon package as the air force version.
The mark-II version of LCA for the Indian Air Force, Subramanyam said, is also under development as IAF would eventually require five squadrons of the upgraded plane with a more powerful engine, better aerodynamics and advanced avionics.
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd will develop eight early technology demonstrators, 12 trainers and 20 fighters of LCA mark-I before producing 40 mark-II LCA, HAL chairman and managing director Ashok Baweja said on Thursday.
All mark-I planes which impressed everybody - including defence minister A K Antony - with their manoeuvres in the air show, are expected to be inducted by 2014. HAL is setting up two assembly lines for manufacturing LCA from 2011 at a rate of eight aircraft every year, Subramanyam informed.
To tie up with varsities for research in these areas.
Bangalore, Feb. 14 The Defence Research and Development Organisation has zeroed-in on 20 technology gaps which it will address in order to develop futuristic products for the Armed Forces, according to top officials of the organisation. These would go into products 15 years from now.
DRDO plans to kick-start research in these areas by collaborating with top institutions like the IISc, IITs and universities, DRDO’s Secretary, Mr M. Natarajan, who is also the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, said at a news conference at the ongoing Aero India 2009.
For self-reliance in military products and technologies, DRDO realises that “(The country) has not invested enough in basic sciences and are weak in propulsion, stealth and some materials. Collaborations are on” to bridge the gaps, he said. DRDO was also enlisting industry support and hoped to get the technologies in ten years.
The defence R&D establishment is driving this research through 40-50 higher education institutes. The 20 themes include superior aerodynamics, hypersonic flight technologies, new-generation antennae, stealth, lasers, tank protection, nanotech, auto take-off and landing, aerostats and high-energy microwave and network centric operations, said Dr Prahalada, Chief Controller (R&D).
A two-seater trainer version of the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) is planned to be test-flown in two months. The LCA itself is under development. The IAF recently acquired the Hawk advanced jet trainers to train its fighter pilots.
Mr Natarajan said the LCA trainer would be a supersonic leading fighter comparable to the South Korean jet trainer 350. “We are also configuring a twin-engine medium combat aircraft on the LCA platform. Preliminary discussions have started with the IAF. The MCA will be equipped with stealth features, advanced avionics, electronic warfare, radars and features to carry weapons,” he said.
The same LCA platform is also used to develop an unmanned combat aerial vehicle.
On the Light Combat Aircraft, he said trials in cold weather and weapons firing were over and it should be operational by late 2010 or early 2011. The IAF had placed an order with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for 40 indigenous LCA ‘Tejas.’
It took immense public pressure and the death of tens of Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots for the government to okay the purchase of 66 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers (AJTs) for training rookie pilots on fast jets before sending them off to the MiG Operational Flying Training School (MOFTU) in Tezpur. There they are put into the cockpit of one of the world’s fastest and most unforgiving fighters — the MiG-21. It is no coincidence that accidents are dramatically down since training began on the Hawk.
Now the IAF is purchasing another trainer that could equip its pilots even better for flying the high performance fighters — the upgraded Jaguars, MiG-21s, 27s and 29s, the Mirage 2000s, the brutally powerful Su-30MKI and the MMRCA, when that is inducted — which will comprise the new IAF.
Top MoD sources have told Business Standard that the IAF will soon order from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) twelve of the newly developed two-seater trainer version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). DRDO chief M Natarajan confirms that the Tejas trainer is set to make its first flight within two months.
This will give IAF pilots an additional stage of training. Currently, Stage I is carried out on a basic trainer, the HPT-32; Stage II on slightly faster and more complex aircraft like the Kiran; and Stage III on the jet-engined, but sub-sonic Hawk AJT. The induction of an LCA trainer will allow IAF pilots to fly a supersonic, light fighter before graduating to the combat squadrons.
Most advanced western air forces do not conduct four stages of training; instead, they rely extensively on aircraft simulators. But the IAF, like some other air forces, has tended to prefer live flying. To benefit from such a demand, South Korea has built and is marketing a supersonic trainer called the T-50 Golden Eagle. Natarjan declared at Aero India 2009 that the Tejas trainer would compete effectively with the Golden Eagle.
Ashok Nayak, Managing Director of HAL’s Bangalore Complex and the company’s next chief, explains that the Tejas assembly line will be busy until 2014, producing the IAF’s first order of 20 Tejas aircraft, which will include 16 single-seater fighters and 4 twin-seater trainers. Then, while the Tejas is reengineered and flight-tested with a new, more powerful engine, the assembly line will produce 12 more trainers.
For HAL, the new order is a relief, as it will keep the Tejas assembly line rolling. Nayak points out: “It is not in the interest of the Air Force, or of HAL, to have a break in production.”
Business Standard travelled to HAL for an exclusive look at the new Tejas trainer. From the outside, there is little to distinguish it from the single-seater fighter that performed aerobatics at the just-concluded Aero India 2009 show. A closer look, however, reveals an expanded cockpit, in which two pilots — an instructor and a trainee — sit one behind the other, both equipped with all the controls needed to fly the aircraft.
The design team for the twin-seater Tejas trainer was led by two women engineers — Poongothai, and Mamatha K — of HAL’s Aircraft Research and Development Centre. They pointed out that the additional pilot’s seat and controls have all been squeezed into the existing airframe, obviating the need for time-consuming redesign of the single-seater Tejas’ airframe. After the Hawk, a supersonic trainer LCA
Eurojet is to propose a thrust-vectoring version of the Eurofighter Typhoon's EJ200 powerplant to meet India's requirement for up to 150 engines to equip the first squadrons of its indigenously developed Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA).
The Aeronautical Development Agency - which is leading development of the Tejas - is expected to issue a request for proposals in the next few weeks, pitching the EJ200 against General Electric's F414.
The Eurojet partner companies have been working on thrust vectoring nozzle technology for several years, lead by Spanish manufacturer ITP, which validated the concept during a series of bench tests. Eurofighter majority stakeholder EADS is equipping a cockpit simulator at its Manching facility to demonstrate the potential performance enhancements.
Thrust vectoring nozzle technology is being offered to the Eurofighter customer nations on the basis that it could significantly lower lifecycle costs by reducing fuel burn by "3-4% on an average mission" and extending the life of hot section parts, says Eurojet technical director Matt Price.
This is achieved by optimising nozzle shape throughout the flight envelope, and by eliminating the need for drag-inducing control surface deflections to trim the aircraft, particularly at supersonic speeds, where the aerodynamic centre moves aft, causing the nose to pitch down.
In addition, the technology can enhance agility, which could be of particular benefit to the Tejas as it is a delta-winged design that lacks canards.
The latest iteration of the Typhoon's flight-control system software has been designed to incorporate thrust-vectoring, and flight tests of the ITP thrust vectoring nozzle could begin within the next two years.
The flight-control system can be configured to use the thrust vectoring nozzle as an additional "control surface", boosting damage tolerance and reducing the risk of loss-of-control at low speeds, says Wolfgang Sterr, Eurojet engineering director EJ200/LCA. Furthermore, take-off distance for an aircraft such as the LCA could be reduced by around 20%, even in "hot and high" conditions, he adds.
Eurojet envisages a two-phase thrust vectoring nozzle flight-test programme, firstly using a twin-engine aircraft equipped with a single non-FCS-integrated thrust vectoring nozzle, followed by trials of the fully integrated system on both powerplants.
Hey guys, can anyone tell me how many LCA are flying high till now? since TD-1 has already been retired. Sorry for asking, but life has become little frenatic and hence not able to keep up with the happenings.