The naval variant of India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has conducted its maiden ski-jump take-off from the Indian Navy’s sole operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, on Jan. 12.
On Jan 11, the Naval LCA performed its first landing on board the carrier with Commodore Jaideep Maolankar at its controls. The maiden take-off was also performed by Cmde Maolankar.
The developmental LCA MK1 (Navy) will not be operationalized by the Navy but is expected to be utilized as a Technology Demonstrator to prove technologies specific to deck based fighter operations.
“With the completion of this feat, the indigenously developed niche technologies specific to deck based fighter operations have been proven which will now pave the way to develop and manufacture the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter [TEDBF] for the Indian Navy, which is expected to proudly fly from the aircraft carriers by the year 2026, said a statement by the Indian Ministry of Defence.
The TEDBF is a proposed twin-engine carrier-borne fighter aircraft that can meet the requirements of the Navy. It is reported to be based on Tejas single-engine aircraft.
Prior to the carrier landing, the LCA (N) aircraft completed extensive trials at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa, an Indian naval air station located near Dabolim in Goa. SBTF was originally used to train and certify Indian Navy Mikoyan MiG-29K fighter pilots for INS Vikramaditya and was later used for the developmental trials of the naval HAL Tejas.
The naval variant has conducted its maiden flight with tailhook attached in July, 2018, and conducted its maiden taxi-in engagement to prove its arrestor hook system next month. On Sept. 13, 2018, the aircraft conducted its maiden arrested landing at the SBTF and the maiden night time arrested landing was performed at the same facility on Nov. 12.
The LCA Navy is India’s first indigenous effort to build a carrier-borne fighter aircraft. The aircraft is the carrier-borne variant of the HAL Tejas single-engine, delta wing, multirole light fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The naval variant has strengthened airframe and landing gear, and a drooping nose for better cockpit vision during taking-offs and landings on carriers. Naval Tejas prototypes, NP1 & NP2 are powered by General Electric F404-GE-F2J3 afterburning turbofan engines and are being used for testing purposes.