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LCA Navy - Finally First Flight

Issue: 12-2011By SP’s Special Correspondent

The LCA Navy Mk.2, powered by the GE F414 turbofan, when operational, will be ordered in larger numbers

After struggling with serious concerns over weight and landing gear issues, India’s first fighter intended for carrier operations, the LCANavy is to finally make its first flight this month. After 18 months of ground tests and three months since the aircraft was powered on for an engine ground run, the LCA Navy’s inaugural flight is already delayed by well over a year.

Sources at the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) confirm that key concerns with certain control laws pertaining to sink rate, landing gear and weight had been addressed and that the team was confident of a first flight shortly—the hope is before New Year. The first prototype NP-1, a twin-seat trainer version, has been subjected to substantial engineering and structural changes to its airframe for its specialised profile. Certain deficincies that affected flight performance in simulated studies also cropped up in 2010, necessitating important airframe changes. Also, ab initio development of critical items like arrester hook assemblies strengthened landing gear and additional leading edge control surfaces have slowed the progress.

In 2010, the programme team was forced to seek foreign assistance to complete certain work on time (EADS was hired to help audit the LCA Navy’s parameters and consult on landing gear and recovery technology issues). The Indian Navy, which funds the LCA Navy effort, has capped its order at six aircraft in the current configuration since thrust performance has been deemed insufficient for effective and safe carrier operations. The LCA Navy Mk.2, powered by the GE F414 turbofan, when operational, will be ordered in larger numbers.