Naval LCA Goes to Sea

 - January 15, 2020, 5:48 AM
The Naval LCA technology demonstrator lands on Vikramaditya for the first time on January 11. (photo: Indian Navy)

Having completed extensive trials at the Indian Navy Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa, the Technology Demonstrator of the naval version of the HAL Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) made its first arrested landing onboard India’s Vikramaditya aircraft carrier on January 11. The LCA also performed a ski jump takeoff from the carrier the next day.

“With the completion of this feat, 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 for the Indian Navy…expected to fly from the aircraft carriers by 2026,” read the accompanying navy statement. Trials are continuing through January to check the strain on each part of the technology demonstrator. 

“The naval variant of the LCA will require the General Electric F414 Enhanced Performance Engine providing up to 26,500 pounds of thrust, a 20 percent boost,” an Indian Navy official told AIN.

DK Sharma, consultant and former Navy spokesman agrees. “Right now it is a compromise between the amount of fuel carried versus ammunition. The fact is the arrester hook landing is the greatest feat for the navy in the past 70 years. While this aircraft will not come into the fighter role for some time, it has given confidence to all its stakeholders that it can land on the 165-meter deck of the ship at almost full throttle…the hook has been proved,” adding that “it was like a baby falling on deck at 200 knots.”

India will need to get into joint ventures and partnerships for the project said an official, referring to the LCA naval aircraft. According to Raman Sopory, founder of Defense Aerospace Consultants India (DCAI): “It is time to extend the [private companies] supply chain to medium and small enterprises if the manufacturing ecosystem is to take off.” He added that major parts of the naval LCA were imported and indigenous manufacture was key.

The LCA Navy has been developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization along with the Aeronautical Development Agency, Indian Navy, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance.