India is preparing to unveil its first naval variant of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas on July 6 —15 years after the Indian Air Force (IAF) version of LCA’s technology demonstrator (TD-1) was first rolled out in 1995.
The naval prototype-1 (NP-1) is currently undergoing a series of checks inside the high-security hangar of Bangalore-based Aircraft Research and Development Centre (ARDC). It will be rolled out in the presence of Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral Nirmal Verma, sources told DNA on Tuesday.
“The two-seater naval variant for aircraft carrier operations, NP-1 will be rolled out on July 6 in Bangalore,” sources said.
Both Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the nodal agency for the design and development of Tejas variants, and HAL, its principal partner and main manufacturer, were tight-lipped about the roll-out.
An aircraft’s roll-out means that it is structurally complete with equipment installed, and plumbing and wiring completed.
It will be on its wheels and can be moved by assisted power. A roll-out is also a precursor to the next phase of ground-based system integration testing, engine ground run, taxi trials and the first flight. Kept under wraps, the Tejas NP-1 will have almost the same system architecture as the Tejas IAF trainer version.
“Externally it might look the same like the Tejas trainer, but internally it is a different kettle of fish. We are confident that ADA-HAL will make NP-1 (trainer) ready for the first flight by the end of this year, and NP-2 (fighter) next year,” sources said.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) sanctioned development of LCA for the Navy in April 2003, and in December 2009, the CCS gave its go-ahead for a Mark-II version with a new engine.
NP-1 will fly with a GE-404 engine. NP-1’s 40% of the funding is from the Indian Navy while 60% is from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The naval variant of Tejas will replace the aging Sea Harrier fleet and the Indian Navy is said to have shown an initial commitment for 50 Tejas aircraft after the platform proves its mettle.
Both NP-I & NP-2 are tailor-made to operate from an aircraft carrier with the concept of ski-jump take-off and arrested recovery (STOBAR).
“The aircraft will get airborne within 20 metres over the ski-jump on the ship as against a land-based take-off run of about 800 metres. Landing on the ship is with an arrester hook on the aircraft engaging a ship-based wire.
The aircraft then stops within 90 metres of touchdown — about
one-tenth the land-based stopping distance.
This makes the Tejas naval programme extremely challenging and we are happy with what the Naval Project Team (NPT) based out of Bangalore has done so far,” sources added.
A 14-member Naval Project Team headed by Commodore (Retd) CD Balaji, programme director, LCA Navy, is monitoring the project’s progress from ADA in close association with ARDC.
Balaji was not available for any comment.