Work is at HAL to complete the first batch of LCA MK1A Tejas aircraft to be delivered in 2018-19
The Indian Air Force (IAF) had issued the Request for Proposal (RFP) to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 83 LCA MK1A Tejas aircraft for which HAL had to respond within three months. The move reassures the IAF’s interest in the programme despite the concerns expressed. The RFP requires 73 single seat MK1A fighters and 10 twin seat Trainers. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in November 2016 granted the Acceptance Of Necessity (AON) which cleared Rs 50,000 crore for the acquisition. This will be in addition to the already placed orders for 40 aircraft in the MK1 configuration of which the first 20 will be of IOC standard and the other 20 will be of FOC standard.
The Flying Daggers
Five of the first lot of 20 LCA Tejas have been inducted into the No. 45 Squadron of the IAF (Flying Daggers) currently based in Yelahanka, Bangalore to replace Mig-21 Bison fighters. The squadron’s focus now would be on training pilots, technicians, ground crew, and exploring the operational envelopes of the aircraft and accordingly, device tactics. With the squadron being close to HAL, it facilitates technical assistance to the IAF till it is well acquainted with the aircraft. The squadron would be moved to Sulur, Coimbatore later. The squadron has already taken part in the IAF exercises and aerial displays during events.
FOC and Production Activities
HAL’s CMD Suvarna Raju had revealed that Final Operational Clearance (FOC) is to be achieved by mid-2018 or by 2018 end conservatively. Various parameters are being proven and envelopes including Angle of Attack (AoA) being explored, air to ground weapon delivery trials are almost complete but undergoing some software changes; the braking issues, for instance, have reportedly been fixed.
Derby BVR has been test fired ballistically but integrated air to air testing along with the radar are yet to be completed, the Python-5 Close Combat Missile (CCM) integration has reportedly faced problems which has led to the delay. MBDA is offering the ASRAAM as an alternative CCM for integration with the Tejas. “ASRAAM would provide the Tejas pilot with ‘a first shot first kill’ feature to take the uncertainty out of a potential dogfight. MBDA has discussed ASRAAM with the IAF for potential integration on the Tejas and of course, we would be delighted if the weapon were chosen,” said Loïc Piedevache, Country Head, MBDA Group, India.
The Cobham Quartz radome with higher permittivity increases the detection range of the multi-mode radar, tests have reportedly shown promising results. Cobham also provides the retractable air to air refuelling probe which will be tested with IL-78 MIDAS in the coming months. The Gsh-23L gun manufactured by Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is another crucial component to be proven for FOC clearance. The gun has already cleared ground trial on the LSP-7. Gun firing can spring up nasty surprises in the form of gas ingestion into the air intakes, vibrations and cracks which can affect other components.
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