Reign of Naval aviators
 LCA Navy programme will deliver operational LCA Navy Mk-2 fighter only a decade from now
 The Naval LCA being rolled out for public view

Bangalore: The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) designed Light Combat Aircraft (Navy) is a highly ambitious project to develop the world’s smallest and lightest, carrier borne fighter with an unstable delta configuration and digital Fly by Wire (FBW). The LCA Navy must cater for a low approach speed, Ski Jump take off capability, with critical management of Angle of Attack (AoA), and have a structure capable of absorbing high vertical speeds while landing on an aircraft carrier deck. For ADA, with no experience in designing such an aircraft, the task has proved to be monumental and the first flight of the LCA Navy Trainer Prototype (NP-1) has been delayed by over a year. It is expected to take place only in the first half of this year.
The delay cannot be good news for the Indian Navy which, committed as it is to indigenisation, can now realistically expect the LCA Trainer variant to achieve Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) by 2016, with Final Operational Clearance (FOC) expected two years later, by 2018. This would actually be very good going as ADA would have delivered an operational navy trainer with which selected aircrew could begin conversion training aboard an aircraft carrier.

Admiral Nirmal Verma speaking at the roll out of NP-1 stated that “The LCA Navy aircrew should have carried out conversion flying on the LCA Navy Trainer by 2014, as the indigenous aircraft carrier presently under construction in Kochi would also enter service at the same time.” As per a report by the Comptroller and Audit General (CAG) last year, as of December 2009, only 35 per cent work on the indigenous carrier had been completed. Compared to NP-1, the LCA Navy Fighter Prototype (NP-2) will feature revised air intakes for better engine performance at low speeds, full navy-specified avionics suite and increased internal fuel. The programme, as it stands today, needs more than a decade of design, development and flight testing before being able to trap on deck as an operational, all weather fleet defence fighter, flying off an aircraft carrier. Former chairman (HAL) Ashok Nayak had requested an early order for Limited Series Production (LSP) production of the LCA Navy Trainer, as a lead time of three years is required, to manufacture the aircraft. These orders would then be dovetailed into HAL’s existing orders. As it stands now, the LCA Navy Trainer will have only limited operational relevance.
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