BANGALORE: Though the project has been delayed by a few years, it took the developers of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Naval version only 20 minutes of its maiden flight time to term it a “successful run”.
The Naval version NP-1 took to the skies piloted by Chief Test Pilot of National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) Air Commodore T A Maolankar and co-piloted by Wing Cdr Maltesh Prabhu on Friday.
Commenting on its success, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister V K Saraswat said the flight has given them a place among a few select nations, capable of developing and testing a fourth generation aircraft with ski take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR).
“The flight was to validate safe landing,” Maolankar said and added that they flew with the undercarriage down. He said they flew at 10,000 feet and stayed within 30 km of the base. Only basic manoeuvres at varying speeds of upto 450 km were performed.
“We tested on-board system functions and also increased the angle of attack to 16 degrees,” he said and added a close formation flying was performed. The LCA flew with another LCAs for cross reference of sensors.
But Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Satish Soni, who expressed the Navy’s delight on the success of the first test, said that they (developers) “should put their heads down to complete the aircraft”. He said they should soon start flying longer sorties and set firm targets to complete the aircraft and fine tune all identified problems of the aircraft. Saraswat on the other hand said the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the Naval version would come only in 2014.
Defending the delays, he said the Naval version was ‘almost a new aircraft by itself’ as it had many structural and design uniqueness compared to the Indian Air Force (IAF) version, the Tejas. He informed that the ski-tests would be conducted in Goa in about six months time as the ski test facility was 80 pc ready. “We have collected a lot of data on drag, manoeuvres and other aspects of the aircraft,” he said and added, “We need to fine tune these areas and then send it for other tests.”
He said they would check the carrier compatibility in ski jump by December. The project had been allocated `1,900 crore for the LSP and the developers maintain that there would be no cost overruns even though the Navy has approved the building of another platform for testing.