The first prototype of two-seater trainer version of India’s single-seat Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) made its maiden flight on November 26. Taking off from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Bangalore airfield, the aircraft achieved an altitude of 30,000 feet and speed of Mach 0.85. The flight was about six months behind schedule because the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) wanted to avoid a failed test. ADA chief P.S. Subramaniam said caution in flight tests was one of the drawbacks in the Tejas LCA program, which started in 1983, but a delay that is understandable given that India will be certifying a modern fighter for the first time.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) needs the two-seat trainer urgently because it plans to acquire 220 LCAs. It has already ordered 22 limited-production LCAs under a $582 million contract. These are expected to enter service next year. Single-seat LCA prototypes have completed more than 1,200 test flights. EADS is advising IAF on how to reduce flight testing without compromising safety.
Meanwhile, in the final phase of testing before commissioning, an HAL Tejas flew more than 1,350-km/hour on December 7. That is a record speed by an India-made fighter, an IAF officer said. The aircraft also passed a flutter test, he said.