BENGALURU: India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas will be graduating to the next level with the installation of the On-board Oxygen (OBOX) generating system by December or early 2020, said a scientist from Defence Electromedical & Bio-Engineering Laboratory (DEBEL), under the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).
Almost a year after a successful mid-air fuelling of the Tejas, the LCA Mark-1 (Mk-1) of the Indian Air Force, which enables aircrafts to be airborne for longer durations, DEBEL researchers have developed the onboard oxygen generating system, OBOX, to help keep the pilot fit and alert for an equally long duration with continuous supply of oxygen while on high altitude, long-distance flights.
“As of now, a fighter pilot is airborne with a bottle of oxygen, a cylinder that comes with the aircraft, which has the capacity to last an hour at the most, before coming back to base to get it replenished. However, with the OBOX, oxygen will be available throughout, as long as the engine is running,” he said.
The LCA Tejas is an indigenous lightweight, multi-role supersonic aircraft, developed in both fighter and trainer versions.
The IAF had initially ordered 40 LCA Tejas aircrafts with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which is manufacturing the aircraft after the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) completed its design and development phase.
However, in 2018, the IAF placed a further order of 83 LCA Tejas aircraft at a cost of about Rs 50,000 crore.
Tejas has been built using advanced composites with an eye on reducing its weight while enhancing the life of the components.
The lightweight fighter -- designed to carry air-to-air, air-to-surface, precision-guided and standoff weaponry -- successfully completed arrested landing on its naval variant in Goa and is finally expected to be assigned for operations on India’s aircraft carrier Vikramaditya.
How the self-replenishing system works
The box will suck the bleed air which is being thrown out of the engine along with the exhaust, and then processes it through sieves. Nitrogen is separated through this ‘absorption process’ and pure oxygen is generated.
“We have successfully completed lab trials. Now it is to have flight trials. Which is expected by the end of this year or by 2020. After that, this will be fitted on the Tejas,” he said.
The OBOX will flash warning lights and beeps when it detects lesser oxygen than demanded. An onboard electronic control unit on it will monitor the generation and percentage of oxygen.
The 14.5 kg OBOX has been designed for the Tejas and will be later used with small modification on Sukhoys and Hawks.