HAL has order for 40 LCA aircraft (16 each in Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and FOC and 8 trainers in FOC) from Indian Air Force (IAF).
State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has received drawings and documents related to Final Operational Clearance (FOC) with limited clearance for Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ from Center for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).
“This means that HAL can start working towards productionisation of this final operational clearance (FOC) standard aircraft with a lead time of 10 to 12 months. With these drawings in our hand, we can now start planning and procurement processes for FOC aircraft,” explained R Madhavan, CMD, HAL to the Financial Express Online.
According to the HAL CMD, “The first aircraft in this configuration should roll-out by the end of this calendar year”.
HAL has order for 40 LCA aircraft (16 each in Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and FOC and 8 trainers in FOC) from Indian Air Force (IAF). 11 in IOC configuration have been delivered. Efforts are on to deliver, another five by the end of current fiscal, Madhavan added.
In 2018, with its increased thrust towards technology development, HAL had ensured that the IAF will be able to fly the indigenously developed LCA ‘Tejas’ with hot refuelling capacity.
The development of the home-grown fighter aircraft, already taken 30 years to reach this stage.
This is the first aircraft in India to fly with capability of hot refuelling. The technology has been jointly developed by HAL and ADA, which has also developed and manufactured carbon-fibre composite (CFC) structures and skins, and a modern glass cockpit.
As has been reported by The FE Online, the idea of an indigenous fighter aircraft was conceptualised in the 1970s, the work started only in 1983. To get final operational clearance (FOC), the state-owned HAL had carried out a hot refuelling trial on LCA ‘Tejas’ LSP8 aircraft followed by a sortie at HAL airport in 2018.
In an official statement released by the HAL in March 2018, “The system performance during the refuelling session was in-line with design requirements and was satisfactory.”
Hot refuelling is single point pressure refuelling of the aircraft with the engine in operation. It is a process by which a fighter aircraft is refuelled (in between sorties) while its engine is in operation, thereby cutting down the refuelling time by half and turn-around time significantly.
The ‘Tejas’ LSP8 aircraft is integrated with Fixed Air-to-Air (AAR) refuelling probe. As part of the system certification and clearance, extensive ground tests have been carried out to validate the compatibility of physical interfaces between probe and drogue / adapter and system functionality at different refuelling conditions (flow rate, inlet pressure and aircraft pitch attitudes).
The Hot Refuelling capability is highly desired in combat situations as it basically puts aside the need for the pilot to park the aircraft, power down and exit the cockpit for refuelling to begin.
Sources had told The Financial Express Online that no country opts for 100% indigenisation as it is not cost-effective and needs huge infrastructure. Hence, he explained that the main structure and sub-systems of the aircraft are indigenised and the remaining parts are imported.
HAL had faced many technological challenges in the making of LCA that included sanctions on import of carbon fibre, establishing the entire tooling and manufacturing capability by in-house design of tooling and test equipments and incorporation of world class manufacturing standards.
According to the IAF, the Made in India LCA is considered superior to Pakistan’s JF-17 built jointly with China.
Since the plane is made of composite, it is light and very agile; it also comes with smart ammunition and bombs which help it to hit targets in a precise manner.
What is onboard the Tejas?
- Tejas has rules-based Artificial Intelligence incorporated into its Flight Control System (FCS)
- The FCS provides the pilot ‘carefree handling’
- There are 358 line-replaceable units (LRU/ components) in the Tejas aircraft
- Almost 53% have been indigenously developed in India
- It is equipped with helmet-mounted display and fly-by-wire technology
- A semi-automatic & computer-regulated system for controlling the flight of an aircraft or spacecraft which makes it a 4.5-generation plane.
- The cockpit has two 76mm×76mm colour liquid crystal multifunction displays developed by Bharat Electronics
- A head-up display developed by the government-owned Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) in Chandigarh
- A liquid crystal return-to-home-base panel and keyboard
- The aerial refuelling probe for the LCA Tejas- LSP-8 is being supplied by UK based Cobham
A full-fledged division has been set up to look after production in a systematic way with more investments. Overall fund allocation for development and production of Tejas is Rs 25,000 crore.
IAF plans to acquire 120 Tejas aircraft, with 100 of these having major modifications. The contract for delivery of aircraft was signed in 2006 for first 20 LCA Tejas aircraft in IOC configuration. The initial requirement was put at around 200 LCAs and 20 two-seat conversion trainers.
The first 40 jets will be equipped with General Electric F404 engines. Simultaneously, Indian engineers together with French experts are developing domestically-designed gas turbine engine, dubbed Kaveri.