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Improved Light Combat Aircraft Tejas MK-1A to take first flight in June


India’s ‘Light Combat Aircraft Tejas MK-1A fighter aircraft with AESA radar to take flight in June this year.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) expects to deliver all Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas in the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) variant to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2022 while the LCA MK-1A, with specific enhancements, will take flight by middle of this year, said R. Madhavan, Chief Managing Director, HAL.

“We will be attempting at least 6-8 aircraft (LCA) this year. All 10 aircraft are already ready, there are some systems to be delivered from Israel. If that happens in time, we can deliver all 10,” Mr. Madhavan told The Hindu talking of the hectic calendar HAL has for this year. “By June this year we should start flying the LCA MK-1A configuration. Once flying starts, we have about 20 to 24 months of testing. Once that is done, we will be ready for deliveries as expected.”

Last February the Defence Ministry had signed a ₹48,000 crore deal with HAL to supply 83 LCA MK-1A to the IAF. HAL will be delivering the first three aircraft in 2024 and 16 aircraft per year for subsequent five years, the Defence Ministry had stated earlier.

We will start manufacturing activities parallel with the testing, Mr. Madhavan said on LCA MK-1A schedule. With COVID-19 cases surging again, there could be some delay if the work schedule is disrupted.

READ HERE: Tejas mk1A : The real “DESI GAME CHANGER” of India

To ramp up production, HAL has already set up two additional assembly lines. Stating that all three LCA assembly lines are operational now, Mr. Madhavan said the back end of the lines is what they are finishing now including the supply of sub-assemblies by vendors.

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There are minor changes on structure design in Tejas mk1A compared to Tejas mk1 (FOC) version Presently, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has completed the structural design phase of HAL Tejas Mk1A and final designs are likely to be cleared for production by early-2021. This will be followed by manufacturing, system integration, and around 200 test fights before Tejas Mk1A is cleared for mass production by mid-2022. Mark 1A variant of the LCA will come with around 40 major and minor improvements over Mark 1

Tejas FOC Features

SP-21 boasts of key features like air-to-air refuelling probe, Gsh-23 mm gun, pressure refuelling with three drop tank configuration, improved wing navigation lamp, tandem pylon and auto-low speed recovery to name a few. Here’s a quick glance at the new features :

Air-to-air refuelling probe: This novel feature of mid-air refuelling introduced to FOC variants will enhance the range without additional touchdowns or pit-stops to refuel. This is the first desi fighter to have this feature.

Fuel system enhancement: Over and above 2350 kg fuel carrying capability of IOC variant with its external drop tanks of 1200 and 800 litres capacity, Tejas FOC has an additional 725 litres centre line drop tank with pressure refuelling.

Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles: The reliable Derby missile has expanded the firing envelope making it more lethal. This feature was tested and cleared for the entire FOC envelope via the exhaustive study of missile separation characteristics.

GSH 23 mm twin barrelled gun: This Russian gun underwent extensive butt firing at Nasik before getting on board SP-21. The integral gun would give an edge to the pilot in case of a close-combat scenario.

LCA-MK2 roll out by year end or early 2023

The design for LCA MK-2, a much bigger aircraft, has been frozen and some of the manufacturing activities have started. Hopefully by this year end or early 2023 we should have the first roll out of the aircraft, and one year after that it will be taking to the skies, Mr. Madhavan said. “We are targeting early 2023 but we should be able to do it slightly early.”

The LCA MK-2 features enhanced range and endurance including Onboard Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS), which is being integrated for the first time. Heavy stand off weapons of the class of Scalp, Crystal Maze and Spice-2000 will also be integrated on the MK-2. The MK-2 will be a heavier and much more capable aircraft than the current LCA variants with the aircraft 1350mm longer, featuring canards and can carry a payload of 6,500 kg compared to 3,500 kg by the LCA.

IAF had earlier placed orders for 20 IOC (Initial Operational Configuration) standard aircraft and 20 FOC standard aircraft including eight twin seater trainers. The First LCA squadron with IOC aircraft is complete and the second squadron with FOC has also been operationalised. Once the FOC aircraft are delivered, the twin seater aircraft would be the balance from this order.

The HAL is also expecting the formal contract from the Services for the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) which was formally handed over to the IAF by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event in Jhansi in November.

The manufacture of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), which has received the Initial Operational Clearance, is also in advanced stages with HAL’s new facility in Tumkur set to be ready by March. The government recently informed in Parliament that four Limited Series Production (LSP) LUH would be manufactured by 2022-23 and eight LSP LUHs by 2023-24.

Source: The Hindu


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