‘Given the Features and Functionality of the Tejas, We Feel the Weight is Reasonable’
Director ADA, P.S. Subramanyam
What is the current status of the LCA programme?
We have developed 2 technology demonstrators TD-1 and TD-2; we have the four prototypes PV-1, PV-2, PV-3 and PV-4. The Limited Series Production aircraft ranging from LSP-1 to LSP-4 are all flying. TD-1, TD-2 and PV-1 have now become outdated and are used for ground testing or testing of equipment that needs to be developed for the Tejas. All the aircraft from PV-2 onwards are participating in the flying test campaign. LSP-5 is currently the final ‘Standard of Preparation’ that we will deliver to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and this aircraft is expected to fly this month. LSP-6 and LSP-7 will follow and have been earmarked for the user evaluation by pilots belonging to the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment (ASTE).

Both the IAF and the Indian Navy have committed some money for the Tejas Mk-2 which will be equipped with a higher performing engine. We now have a concurrent programme to develop the Tejas Mk-2 version for the IAF and the Indian Navy. The PV-5 which is a trainer version of the Tejas’ is flying and another aircraft PV-6 is expected to fly by the end of this year. The maiden flight of the Tejas Mk-2 is expected to take place in December 2014 and production will begin in December 2016.

What is the current order book for the Tejas and what orders can be expected in the future?

Based on the progress observed by the IAF an order for 20 ‘Tejas’ fighters was placed by the IAF in 2006. Further developments in the LCA programme have resulted in order for another 20 aircraft. There exists a requirement on paper for 100 fighters (five squadrons) for the IAF and a 50 for the Indian Navy, which has been put up to the government of India. The technology growth in engines has been so rapid that is has been very difficult to keep pace with the technology. As a result, the Kaveri engine which we began with in the early Nineties is now unable to match the performance requirements demanded by the user. We are confident that the Tejas equipped with the alternate engine will provide the IAF with a fighter which offers contemporary performance over a decade of service.

What is the update on the LCA Naval version?

The ‘Power On’ for the Navy version has to take place where we test all the functions; this will be followed by four to six weeks of exhaustive testing. If we are able to demonstrate the naval variant at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa, then the navy may consider orders for the Mk-1 variant of Tejas itself, to fill the gap for light fighters to operate off its careers. We also expect the navy to order around 2 squadrons of the Mk-2 variant. Initial funding of about Rs 900 crore was obtained for the Naval variant in 2003, as we went along there were many challenges and we found that a major portion of the structure had to be strengthened, nose droop was required, extra control surfaces and the flight control system of Naval variant differs from the IAF variant because of the low speed landing requirements of the LCA Navy. In hindsight, it would have been easier to design the naval variant first and then quickly move onto the air force variant and not the other way around. Our initial estimates on the amount of work required on the Naval variant were not quite accurate and the programme gave us some surprises.
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