A Tejas light combat aircraft flies during initial operational clearance, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year. (AFP)
NEW DELHI — India’s defense minister says his country’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program should be inducted into the Indian Air Force by the end of this year or early next year. The program is 15 years behind schedule.
After reviewing the schedule for the plane’s development, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told Parliament in an Aug. 5 letter that he has asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation and Aeronautical Development Agency to adhere to the schedule of obtaining initial operational clearance (IOC) for the plane at the end of this year, followed by final operational clearance (FOC) at the end of 2014. Induction is likely after IOC, he wrote.
An official with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which will produce the LCA, said HAL can produce four planes per year, but added that HAL could bring that number to eight within a year after IOC clearance.
“HAL also has plans to augment the production capacity to 16 aircraft within three years after IOC clearance based on the firm orders to be received,” the HAL official said.
The Indian Air Force has already contracted 40 LCA Mark 1 aircraft, while the the requirement for Mark 2 aircraft is 83.
However, the Air Force ultimately wants 124 Mark 2 LCAs, the first of which is expected to be inducted in 2017-18.
India is also developing the naval version of the LCA, which is scheduled to be inducted in the Indian Navy in 2015.
Designed by Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency and state-owned HAL, the naval version will be equipped to operate from an aircraft carrier with ski-jump take-off and arrested recovery capability. The naval version has been designed with structural and landing gear modifications to the existing Air Force version to cater to larger loads and arrested recovery.
The Indian Navy has already ordered six LCA naval versions and has committed around US $30 million for each aircraft.
The LCA’s naval version is a small, lightweight, tailless, multi-role, supersonic fighter aircraft and will be deployed on India’s new indigenous aircraft carrier, which is now expected to be commissioned by 2018.