Defence scientists, engineers and pilots, attached to India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas programme, are on a war footing to ensure that the fighter does not miss the December deadline for its Initial Operational Clearance (IOC-2).
Three aircraft (LSP-3, LSP-5, LSP-8) from the Tejas flight-line are currently undertaking weapon trials in Jamnagar.
The Russian-made R73-E missile will be fired during the ongoing trials. Sources confirmed that the Ministry of Defence has made it clear to both Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) that the IOC-2 deadline will not be extended any more.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots will formally get to fly Tejas after the IOC-2 declaration. So far, the Tejas variants have completed 2,391 sorties, clocking 1,520 hours in over 12 years.
Currently, the fine tuning of the software and various onboard systems are being done during various trials. Flight trials are also progressing in Bangalore with the final version of equipment and mission systems getting a relook.
“We haven’t been lagging on any of the IOC-2 parameters now. We are working to clear all the test points. The results of Jamnagar trials will be crucial,” said an HAL official working with the Aircraft Research and Design Centre.
“Every weapon has to be fired at different modes, expanding the flight envelope of the aircraft. It is a huge matrix and we have to tick-mark all points ahead of the IOC-2 closure. A final review is expected next month ahead of IOC-2,” the official added.Sources said that the Digital Flight Control Computer and Air Data Computer of Tejas have been showing hardware failures causing last-minute concerns to the engineers.
“But the show must go on. Now the naval prototype of Tejas (NP1) is also ready with all its modifications and raring to go. The modified Tejas trainer (PV5) with its matured software is also ready,” an official said.
The growing differences between HAL and IAF are a concern to New Delhi, which is bent on the programme getting the IOC-2 tag before December.The Finance Ministry’s refusal to grant pension to ADA employees recently (a long-pending demand) has also created heartburn to many working on the Tejas project. However, a DRDO official said December 20 has been tentatively fixed for IOC-2. “As of now that’s the date floating around, and it is subject to change,” the official added.