The Indian Navy’s rejection of the naval variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas provoked sharp reaction from former DRDO chief VK Saraswat on Sunday.
“We have recently heard that the Navy does not require the naval variant of the LCA. It is an unfortunate decision without understanding the complex technologies involved in making a fighter,” said Saraswat, now a member of the Niti Aayog, at an aerospace seminar here.
Without naming Navy Chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, the former Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said people who have poor information should not be bad mouthing something.
“Hopefully good sense will prevail and the LCA naval variant will go into production as it can be a good contender for a foreign aircraft,” Saraswat told about 1,000 delegates participating in the international seminar being held as part of the biennial Aero India 2017 expo here.
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Addressing a press conference prior to Navy Day (December 4), Lanba had said that “the present LCA Navy does not meet the carrier capability, which is required by the Navy”.
“We will continue to support the DRDO and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in their efforts to develop a carrier-based fighter aircraft. At the same time, we will seek aircraft elsewhere which can operate on the aircraft carrier,” he had said.
The ADA has developed two prototypes (Mark 1 and Mark 2) of the LCA naval variant to operate from an aircraft carrier with short take off but arrested recovery capability.
The Navy has also called for Request For Information (RFI) to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its carrier though the sentinel of the Indian waters operates the Russian MiG-29K fighters from its aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
Terming the navy’s decision as a blow to self-reliance in defence production, Saraswat said when the international community had been denying technology to India, decision-makers should not lose faith in the capabilities of the Indian establishments, their scientists and engineers.
“The decision to dump LCA-Navy defies logic as the DRDO is in the process of developing the aircraft required for the aircraft carrier with the engine thrust needed for arrested recover,” said Saraswat, who headed DRDO till May 2013.
Admitting that the Mark 1 version was overweight and its engine lacked the required thrust for arrested recovery, ADA Director C.D. Balaji said the Mark 2 version would address the issues raised by the Naval Chief.
“Mark 1 is basically a technology demonstrator with a heavier platform upfront. The Mark 2 version will have the capabilities required for an aircraft carrier,” he said.