NEW DELHI: The indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft Tejas LCA Navy NP1 made its maiden 22 minutes flight on April 27. With this India has crossed a major milestone in design, development, manufacturing and testing of a “four plus” generation carrier borne fly-by-wire STOBAR (Ski Take off but Arrested Recovery) aircraft.
LCA is a lightweight multirole fighter developed by India. It is a tailless compound delta-wing design powered by a single engine. The LCA programme began in the 1980s to replace India's ageing MiG-21 fighters. The Tejas has the delta wing configuration, with no tail planes or fore planes, and features a single vertical fin. It integrates technologies such as relaxed static stability, fly-by-wire flight control system, advanced digital cockpit, multi-mode radar, integrated digital avionics system, advanced composite material structures and a flat rated engine. The IAF is reported to have a requirement for 200 single-seat and 20 two-seat conversion trainers, while the Indian Navy may order up to 40 single-seaters to replace its Sea Harrier FRS.51 and Harrier T.60.
During the maiden flight the aircraft was put through various maneuvers including low speed handling and even undertook a close formation flying at slow speed with another aircraft. Earlier the LCA Navy NP1 had completed various intensive ground-testing regimen including Low Speed Taxi Trials (LSD), High Speed Taxi Trials (HSD), Ground Vibration Test (GVT), Structural Coupling Test (SCT) and extensive system integration tests with power plant.
LCA Navy aircraft is the first attempt in India to provide a complete marine force multiplier that will give unique battle punch to the naval aviation arm of the 21st century Indian Navy to fulfill national dream of a blue water navy. LCA Navy is the second STOBAR Carrier Borne aircraft in the world, after the Russian deck based aircraft. However, this will be the only Carrier borne Fighter aircraft in the Light category.
The design of first indigenous naval aircraft imposed huge technological challenges to the Defense Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) to meet the peculiar requirements of naval aircraft; starting from saline and humid environment of operation, restricted availability of deck run for launch and recovery and high operating load conditions. Basic design changes required to suit the carrier operations are strengthening of aircraft structure and landing gear, arrester hook, improved engine, enhanced aerodynamic performance and incorporation of special metal and material. A host of other systems like the Leading Edge Vortex Control (LEVCON) surface are fitted at the front end of the aircraft wing operated by a concealed rotary actuator with aerodynamic profiling to ensure low landing speed, good controllability and better vision for the pilot. The feature of launch and recovery onboard carrier at high sink rate of 7.1 rn/sec, flare less landing with engine to full throttle till arrested by deck cable impose five times of loading on Main Landing Gear as compared to the Indian Air Force (IAF) version. Also such axial load calls for re-certification of all Line Replacement Units (LRUs), components and associated systems of naval version to ensure fail safe operation repeatedly.