New Delhi: The Ministry of Defence has cleared the proposal for a limited series production of the naval variant of the indigenously developed and built light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas.
According to sources, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the defence minister A. K. Antony in its meeting last Friday, cleared the proposal for a limited series production of the aircraft for the Indian navy.
The Navy initially needs two squadrons (40 aircraft) of Tejas Mk1 with the GE-404 engines (85 kN thrust).
The Tejas light combat aircraft design and development programme is being led by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of the Indian Department of Defence with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as the prime industrial contractor.
Like the Indian Air Force, the Indian Navy too wants Tejas with more powerful engine. The Mark 2 of Tejas will feature more powerful General Electric F414-GE-INS6 engine with 98Kn thrust and refined aerodynamics. Mk2 is being developed to meet the Indian Air Force Staff requirements. The Navy too wants to have in its fleet the naval variant of Tejas with GE-414 engine.
According to sources, once the Mk2 of Tejas is developed, the Indian Navy may place order for more such aircraft. The Tejas-Navy is equipped for carrier operation and will be capable of ski-jump take-off and arrested landing. The naval variant of Tejas is designed with drooped nose for better cockpit vision and it has strengthened airframe and landing gear to withstand massive force while arrested landing.
Tejas-Navy is a twin and single seater carrier-capable variant for the Indian Navy. The Tejas Navy will be deployed first on the Russia built aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) and then on the indigenously built Vikrant class aircraft carriers (Indigenous Aircraft Carrier) being built at Cochin. The LCA's naval variant is to be ready for carrier trials by 2013.
Presently Indian Navy has only one aircraft carrier INS Virat in its fleet and Virat has a fleet of some one dozen upgraded Sea Harrier aircraft.
There has been huge delay in the development of naval variant of Tejas and the navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma had recently rebuked ADA for the delay. In an interview to a newspaper, the Admiral said, “…There have been many promises made by the ADA but they failed us... It is often said that there is only 15 per cent difference between both versions. The Navy has always maintained that it may be 15 per cent in terms of material and systems, but it is a substantial part. And they [ADA] underestimated it.”
Full Scale Engineering Development (FSED) of Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA-Navy), capable of operating from an aircraft carrier, was sanctioned on March 28, 2003 with a Probable Date of Completion (PDC) of March 27, 2010. The PDC has since been revised to December 27, 2014.
Initial Operational Clearance was given in January, 2010 and the next IOC is expected by mid 2012 and final operational clearance by December, 2012. Rs. 12, 000 crores had been spent on the programme at the time of first initial operational clearance in 2010. Weapon trials have also been conducted near Goa and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
The Naval Prototype-1 (NP1) with GE-404 engine was rolled out by the defence minister AK Antony from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Aircraft Research and Design Centre in Bengaluru on July 6, 2010.