NEW DELHI — A technology demonstrator of India’s single-engine light combat aircraft successfully landed on the country’s first locally built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant on Monday for the first time, as part of compatibility testing.
In a statement, the Indian Navy described the development as a historical milestone that “demonstrates India’s capability to design, develop, construct and operate indigenous aircraft carriers with indigenous fighter aircraft.”
The first landing of a Russian-made MiG-29K fighter jet on the carrier also took place Monday using its short-takeoff-but-arrested-recovery mode.
The service said Indian naval pilots performed the two landings.
The Navy plans to use its 12 MiG-29K fighters on the INS Vikrant, and bolster its fleet by procuring 26 F/A-18E or Rafale M fighters.
The Aeronautical Development Agency, under the purview of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, developed three single-engine naval LCA prototypes. The state-run firm Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. produced the aircraft. The Navy describes naval LCA prototypes as technology demonstrators.
The successful landing and takeoff tests from aircraft carriers will help with the development and manufacture of twin-engine, deck-based fighter jets, according to the Aeronautical Development Agency.
Monday’s compatibility test with the LCA technology demonstrator is a significant achievement in India’s attempts to produce indigenous twin-engine naval fighters, said former Indian Navy Vice Adm. Shekhar Sinha.
Sinha noted that as an interim arrangement, the Navy could buy a limited number of foreign-made fighters for its aircraft carriers, but that the service is also funding and supporting domestic efforts to develop a potent naval fighter.
The Aeronautical Development Agency previously said it expects the government to approve $2 billion in funding in mid-2023 for the indigenous development of a few twin-engine, deck-based fighter prototypes. The first flight of that prototype with a canard and delta wing configuration is planned for 2026, and is expected to enter service by 2032.
The Navy currently operates two aircraft carriers — the INS Vikrant and the Russian-built INS Vikramaditya — as well as 42 Russian-made MiG-29K jets.
Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.