India test-flies naval version of LCA
India Friday conducted the maiden flight of the naval version of its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) over this tech hub under a partially cloudy sky.
“With the successful maiden flight of the LCA’s naval version, India has joined another elite club of countries capable of design, development, manufacture and testing of fourth generation carrier borne fly-by-wire ski take off but arrested recovery (Stobar) aircraft,” defence minister’s scientific advisor V.K. Saraswat said here.
The test sortie of the LCA naval prototype (NP-1) was conducted for about 20 minutes by Air Commodore T.A. Maolankar with Wing Commander Maltesh Prabhu as co-pilot of the national flight test centre.
“The flight performance was outstanding. The naval version is the first attempt to provide a complete marine force multiplier that will give unique battle punch to the naval aviation arm of the 21st century to fulfill national dream of blue waters,” an elated Saraswat told reporters here.
Though the Indian naval version is the second Stobar in the world after the Russian deck based aircraft, it will be the only carrier borne fighter in the light category.
“We have flown on the designated flight path up to 30 nautical miles from the base touching a top speed of 450 km from 50 km at take-off and touched an altitude of about 10,000 feet above mean sea level. We also did close formation and slowed down to land smoothly,” Maolankar said hours after the test flight.
Though the naval version project of the LCA was sanctioned in 2003 with a budget of Rs.1,900 crore for its development cost, the maiden test flight was delayed by about five years due to various factors.
With the indigenously built Kaveri aero engine still on the test bed, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADEA) of the state-run Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has been forced to use the GE-F-404IN20 engine of the US-based General Electric (GE).
The naval version of the LCA is expected to replace the ageing fleet of the British built Sea Harrier aircraft of the Indian Navy and complement its fleet of MiG-29 carrier aircraft.