The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft’s (LCA) naval prototype (NP-1) will be rolled out for the first time on July 6 here in Bengaluru, with Chief of Naval Staff Adm. Nirmal Verma on hand, sources tell AVIATION WEEK.
The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which is in charge of the design and development of Tejas variants, and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), ADA’s principal partner and main manufacturer, are currently giving the aircraft a final structural fine-tuning at HAL’s Aircraft Research and Development Center.
“The rollout of the aircraft signals that the platform is structurally complete, equipment installed, and plumbing and wiring completed,” a source says. “It will be on its wheels and can be moved by assisted power. A rollout is also a precursor to the next phase of ground-based system integration testing, engine ground run, taxi trials and the first flight.”
The NP-1 will have almost the same system architecture as the Tejas Indian air force trainer version.
The NP-1 trainer is scheduled to make its first flight by the end of this year and the NP-2 fighter one year after that. Both can operate from an aircraft carrier with the ski-jump takeoff and arrested recovery concept.
“The aircraft will get airborne in about 200 meters over the ski jump on the ship, [versus] a land-based takeoff run of about 800 meters,” a source says. “Landing on the ship is with an arrester hook on the aircraft engaging an arrester wire on the ship. The aircraft then stops in 90 meters, which is about 1/10th of land-based stopping distance. This makes the Tejas naval program extremely challenging, and we are happy with what the Naval Project Team based out of Bangalore has done so far.”
The 14-member NPT is headed by Cmd. C.D. Balaji (ret.), program director for LCA Navy, operating out of ADA.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) sanctioned development of LCA Navy in April 2003, and in December 2009 the CCS also approved a Mark-II version with a new engine. NP-1 will fly with a GE-404 power-plant, with 40% of the funding coming from the Indian navy and 60% from the Defense Research and Development Organization. The Tejas naval variant will replace the aging fleet of Sea Harriers, and the navy is said to have made an initial commitment to 50 Tejas after the platform proves its mettle.