‘Light Combat Aircraft MK-1A to take flight in June’

A larger aircraft LCA MK-2 to roll out by year end or early 2023, says HAL MD

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) expects to deliver all Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas in the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) variant to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2022 while the LCA MK-1A, with specific enhancements, will take flight by middle of this year, said R. Madhavan, Chief Managing Director, HAL.

“We will be attempting at least 6-8 aircraft (LCA) this year. All 10 aircraft are already ready, there are some systems to be delivered from Israel. If that happens in time, we can deliver all 10,” Mr. Madhavan told The Hindu talking of the hectic calendar HAL has for this year. “By June this year we should start flying the LCA MK-1A configuration. Once flying starts, we have about 20 to 24 months of testing. Once that is done, we will be ready for deliveries as expected.”

Last February the Defence Ministry had signed a ₹48,000 crore deal with HAL to supply 83 LCA MK-1A to the IAF. HAL will be delivering the first three aircraft in 2024 and 16 aircraft per year for subsequent five years, the Defence Ministry had stated earlier.

We will start manufacturing activities parallel with the testing, Mr. Madhavan said on LCA MK-1A schedule. With COVID-19 cases surging again, there could be some delay if the work schedule is disrupted.

To ramp up production, HAL has already set up two additional assembly lines. Stating that all three LCA assembly lines are operational now, Mr. Madhavan said the back end of the lines is what they are finishing now including supply of sub-assemblies by vendors.

LCA-MK2 roll out by year end or early 2023

The design for LCA MK-2, a much bigger aircraft, has been frozen and some of the manufacturing activities have started. Hopefully by this year end or early 2023 we should have the first roll out of the aircraft, and one year after that it will be taking to the skies, Mr. Madhavan said. “We are targeting early 2023 but we should be able to do it slightly early.”

The LCA MK-2 features enhanced range and endurance including Onboard Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS), which is being integrated for the first time. Heavy stand off weapons of the class of Scalp, Crystal Maze and Spice-2000 will also be integrated on the MK-2. The MK-2 will be a heavier and much more capable aircraft than the current LCA variants with the aircraft 1350mm longer, featuring canards and can carry a payload of 6,500 kg compared to 3,500 kg by the LCA.

IAF had earlier placed orders for 20 IOC (Initial Operational Configuration) standard aircraft and 20 FOC standard aircraft including eight twin seater trainers. The First LCA squadron with IOC aircraft is complete and the second squadron with FOC has also been operationalised. Once the FOC aircraft are delivered, the twin seater aircraft would be the balance from this order.

The HAL is also expecting the formal contract from the Services for the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) which was formally handed over to the IAF by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event in Jhansi in November.

The manufacture of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), which has received the Initial Operational Clearance, is also in advanced stages with HAL’s new facility in Tumkur set to be ready by March. The government recently informed in Parliament that four Limited Series Production (LSP) LUH would be manufactured by 2022-23 and eight LSP LUHs by 2023-24.

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