The Navy, looking for a replacement of its single-engine carrier-borne fighter, the Sea Harrier, engaged with the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in the early 90s, to see if the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) being developed for the Air Force could be adapted for carrier operations. The feasibility study indicated that with some modifications it was possible. It included strengthening of undercarriage for higher sink rate during flare-less landing on the carrier, reduction in landing speed to keep it within the limits of the arrester gear system, fitment of an arrester hook and supporting structure design, over-the-nose vision during approach and controllability of the aircraft during take-off after ramp exit. A naval team was positioned at ADA in 1994 to assist the designers and be an interface between the user and the development agency.
Post a detailed study, encompassing the Project Definition Phase and Pre-Project Phase, government sanction for the LCA Navy project was given in 2003. The ‘Full-Scale Engineering Development (FSED)’ included the production of two prototype LCA Navy aircrafts, one trainer and one fighter and a Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF), for conducting aircraft trials of ski-jump takeoffs and arrested landings ashore. The core issue was for the Tejas to demonstrate the capability to safely operate from the carrier. The timeline for completion of FSED including Carrier Compatibility Testing(CCT) was 2009. The tight timeline of six years from the production of aircraft to completion of testing with a minuscule number of aircraft indicated that the design change envisaged was minimal.
Early in the naval programme, it became evident that the heavier than anticipated design would result in a shortfall in meeting operational requirements. To meet mission parameters from onboard the aircraft carrier, the LCA Navy required an engine with greater thrust. A second government approval through Government sanction for Full-Scale Engineering Development 2(FSED-2) was given in 2009. This envisaged production of two additional fighters (NP3, NP4), with a new more powerful engine, called the LCA Navy Mark
The production and proving of the Mark 2 aircraft was to be completed by 2018. The approval also extended the FSED 1 (Mark 1 production, test flying and CCT) timelines by five years to 2014, as the LCA Navy Mk1 programme was running behind schedule, with the first aircraft yet to be produced.
Running a developmental naval fighter programme with just two aircrafts to prove Carrier Compatibility is challenging. Any adverse event leading to the downtime of the aircraft could delay timelines. The Navy had therefore sought the build of additional aircraft in 2009 itself. The ADA General Body Meetings during 2010 and 2011, chaired by the Raksha Mantri, agreed that the two Mk1 prototypes were grossly inadequate. Three more Mark 1 prototypes, a twin-seater trainer (NP-5) and two single-seater fighters (NP-6 and NP-7) were recommended for production.
The LCA Navy Mark 1 thus became a technology demonstrator programme to prove the aircraft design capable of safe operation from aircraft carriers. It would be the LCA Navy Mark 2 that would be inducted into the Navy for operational deployment. As there was no limitation for shore-based operations, the Mark 1 aircraft could be utilised from ashore.
With the larger LCA Air Force programme seeing serious slippages, it had an adverse fall-out on the naval programme, as largely the same agencies were involved. It required significant effort, across all levels, to ensure the progress of the LCA Navy programme from the shadow of the larger LCA Air Force programme. The first Tejas Navy Mark 1(NP1) had its first flight in April 2012. The performance parameters were on expected lines. With this one aircraft, flight tests for the naval LCA programme commenced.
The core issue was safe operations of the Tejas Navy from the deck, for which take-off and landing trials would first require to be carried out from ashore. With the ski-jump portion of the SBTF readied, the first significant test would be its performance during a ski- jump take-off. The aircraft structure faces significant stress while accelerating for take-off from the 14 degrees curved ski-jump ramp. As the aircraft exits the ski-jump at lower than the stall speed, till the aircraft becomes fully wing-borne, aircraft controllability is a central concern. The ski-jump take-off was successfully demonstrated on NP1 in December 2014 at Naval Air Station, Goa. A single LCA Navy aircraft had been the mainstay for such a large and complicated development programme. It was finally joined by the second aircraft, NP2, a single-seat fighter built to near-production standards, in February 2015, when it did its first sortie.
The Tejas Navy was planned to fly alongside the Mig 29K from the deck and complement its capability with a substantial number planned for induction. The Navy had, right from the inception of the LCA Navy programme, provided steadfast support with manpower, materiel and funding. In 2016, the Navy for reasons of the inability of the on design-board LCA Navy Mark 2 aircraft to meet operational parameters, terminated its plan to induct the aircraft in Service. This development was a major setback. It was later clarified that while the Navy would not induct the LCA Navy into Service, it would continue to support its development. Notwithstanding, with no concrete end other than proving of design, has an adverse impact, and it was seen in the further slow-down of pace.
The LCA Navy programme running way behind schedule had yet not cleared Carrier Compatibility Testing, as it had yet to be tested for arrested landing ashore. After due checks and work-up, the first ‘arrested landing’ ashore at the SBTF at Goa was finally demonstrated in September 2019. Soon thereafter, on 11 January 2020, the aircraft carried out the first arrested landing on Vikramaditya successfully. This was followed by 18 launches and recoveries from Vikramaditya in a matter of days. The final frontier for the naval programme, operating the LCA Navy from the deck of an aircraft carrier, had been accomplished. The Defence Minister rightly called it “a great event in the history of Indian fighter aircraft development programme.” India had joined the ranks of few countries capable of designing and building a naval fighter, capable of operating from aircraft carriers.
All who have flown the Tejas Navy have vouched for its excellent flying characteristics. The aircraft design had been validated and it has a creditable flying record with zero accidents in the most testing of trials, exhibiting the professionalism and competence of the design, manufacturing, and testing teams. A noteworthy aspect is this capability was proven with only two aircrafts. The other three Mark 1 aircrafts have not been produced to date. The LCA Navy has also exhibited its flying capability and manoeuvrability during Defexpo 2016 and Aero India 2017.
With the Navy rejecting the LCA Navy Mark 2 for induction and having re-defined operational requirements, the LCA Navy programme has been reduced to a technology demonstrator. ADA has commenced work on designing the new naval fighter, nicknamed the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), which, as per media reports, would be flying by 2026.
The lingering question is, have the aims of the LCA Navy programme been achieved and should the programme need to wound up? While the LCA Navy has demonstrated that it can safely operate from the deck, the full envelope for operations from the deck has yet, not been proven or established for the aircraft. This is essential to be undertaken, to ensure that the design is robust and has catered for full operating conditions. It is only then that the aircraft design can truly be called proven. Secondly, user evaluation is important and would bring out many practical issues concerning operations and maintenance aspects. The learnings from the above activities would benefit the follow-on naval fighter programme and could be factored in the design stage itself. It is therefore important that impetus on the Tejas Navy programme be maintained.
ADA must put in place a carrier flight testing schedule, in liaison with the Navy, aiming to complete it within a year. On completion, the aircraft should be given to the Navy for flying operations and user evaluation. The Naval Flight Test Squadron at Goa could operate and assess the aircraft, both ashore and from the aircraft carrier. The Navy has committed to supporting the LCA Navy project. It must, along with its share of funding, provide a small team of flight and maintenance crew to progress further trials. The programme is on the final leg of learning and it should be taken forward to its logical conclusion.
The LCA programme has been a saga of contradictions — of technical issues, huge time overruns, as also of great achievement and satisfaction. It has overcome many technological challenges and matured our design and aircraft production capabilities. Induction of over 100 LCA aircrafts by the Air Force is a matter of great satisfaction and shows user confidence. The LCA Navy has proven the technology, but due to a shortfall in meeting some aspects of mission requirements, has not been accepted by the Navy. All agencies should now work with an even greater focus to ensure that the new naval fighter under design, meets user requirements and is inducted into service. It is the basis on which Naval Aviation can play a significant role in furthering the Prime Minister’s vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
The author is a former naval fighter pilot with extensive flying experience on aircraft carriers
The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme has been a saga of contradictions — of technical issues, huge time overruns, as also of great achievement and satisfaction. It has overcome many technological challenges and matured our design and aircraft production capabilities. Induction of over 100 LCA aircrafts by the Air Force is a matter of great satisfaction and shows user confidence.
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Major push to Make in India in defence sector
To give a major push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atamanirbhar Bharat mission, the Indian Army has joined hands with various technology firms to cater to the demands of the present security scenario.
The Army says if it has to remain operational all around, it cannot rely on obsolete technology hence latest advancement in the sector have to be adopted.
“The Northern Command is always combat ready in the times to come, the challenges will continue to increase so we have to rely on advance technology and keep on innovating,” Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi told The Daily Guardian on the sidelines of the Northern Technology Symposium held in Udhampur on Sunday.
North Tech Symposium was organized under the aegis of HQ Northern Command at Udhampur. Technology symposium, exhibition was organised wherein 162 companies from Indian defence industry including MSMEs, DRDO, DPSU, participated and exhibited their products.
In addition, 42 innovative solutions by Army establishments towards enhancement of combat potential of the Army were also on display. Lt Gen BS Raju, Vice Chief of Army Staff inaugurated the first of its kind technology symposium in Jammu and Kashmir.
Addressing the event, vice-chief of Army staff Lt Gen V S Raju said that he would have appreciated if the investors, capital ventures would have also shown interest in the event to boost the new start-up.
“To cope up with the ever-evolving and ever-changing security scenario, we also need to adopt changes and keep on innovating. I am happy that so many companies have shown interest to showcase their products at the North Tech Symposium. I am hopeful that in near future, many of the products would be put in use by the armed forces,” General Raju said.
In the wake of recent incidence of drone dropping in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab from across the Indo-Pak border, various companies have displayed their products including anti- drone system, drone jammer which can strengthen the forces and border guarding forces to thwart Pakistan’s plan of disturbing peace.
Other than drone dropping threats, detection of tunnels on Jammu and Kashmir border is also a major threat for the security forces these days as 11 tunnels have been detected on Indian-Pakistan border in the past few years. There was number of companies which showcased their products to detect underground tunnels by using artificial intelligence and special radar.
The symposium saw active participation from of senior officers from different forces including IDS, Army HQ, HQ ARTRAC, other Commands, HQ Northern Command, and its subordinate formations. This interactive platform for knowledge diffusion through Joint Army-Industry participation was an important step in the direction of the government’s initiative of “Make in India”.
On the first day of the seminar, the participants from Army and industry discussed the policy and procedures for expeditious procurement, Raksha Atmanirbharta initiatives by Indian Army, DRDO and Defence Public Sector Undertakings, how can private sector contribute towards surveillance system, weapon sights, drones and counter drone system and miscellaneous technologies like 3D printing.
The symposium served to showcase cutting edge technologies and innovative products providing solutions to some of the complex challenges faced by the security forces in Northern Command and also acted as an ideal platform for mutual exchange of ideas between the domestic defence industry and the Army. The technologies and products on display covered a wide canvas, the prominent ones being surveillance and situational awareness, tactical mobility, firepower, force protection, communications, combat medical facility, robotics and simulators.
The symposium was a huge success and Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, AVSM lauded the initiative and innovations of all the vendors. The General Officer expressed his conviction that the plethora of technologies available indigenously can further boost the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” project of the nation. The spirit of Atmanirbharta demands that research and development, the domestic defence industry and Army have work in a synchronized manner to realise the nation’s vision.
ARMY MAJOR SUCCUMBS TO INJURIES DURING OPERATION IN KASHMIR
An Indian Army Major lost his life after slipping into a ravine during a counter-infiltration operation in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.
Late Major Raghunath Ahlawat, 34 was leading his team on a counter-infiltration operation based on reliable intelligence input. “To identify a safe approach for the team he led from the front while carrying out reconnaissance on a route through a steep cliff. “Unfortunately, he slipped due to bad weather and slippery conditions and fell 60 meters into a ravine. Critically injured, he succumbed to his injuries enroute while being evacuated to the nearest Army Hospital,” Indian Army officials said in a statement.
The Army paid tribute to the officer in a ceremony held in the Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar led by Chinar Corps Commander Lieutenant General DP Pandey.
Major Ahlawat was commissioned into the Army in 2012 and hails from Dwarka, New Delhi and is survived by his wife and his parents.
The mortal remains of Late Maj Raghunath Ahlawat were taken for last rites to his native place, where he would be laid to rest with full military honours.
FOR 114 FIGHTER JETS, IAF FAVOURS ‘BUY GLOBAL MAKE IN INDIA’ ROUTE
For over USD 20 billion tender for manufacturing 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) the Indian Air Force (IAF) would prefer to take the ‘Buy Global Make in India’ route over the strategic partnership policy model to produce the planes within the country.
‘Buy Global Make in India’ is a category of procurement process provided in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 under Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to smoothen the acquisition of foreign weapon systems and their production within the country under the ‘Make in India’ in the defence programme. Along with the indigenous LCA Tejas and the 5th Generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft project, the 114 MRFA project would also be required by the IAF to maintain an edge over both the Northern and Western adversaries. We would prefer to go in for the Buy Global Make in India route which is preferred by the vendors also who are expected to take part in the programme, government sources said. Three American aircraft including the F-18, F-15 and F-21 (modified version of the F-16), Russian Mig-35 and Su-35 along with the French Rafale, Swedish Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft are expected to participate in the programme. The Indian Air Force had also sought the views of these companies on the acquisition procedure that they would like to opt for in the programme and most of them have shown a preference for the Buy Global Make in India route only, they said.
The sources said that the force has also sought directions from the government on the project.
INDIA GETS DEFENCE SUPPLIES FROM RUSSIA, BUT PAYMENT MAY BECOME AN ISSUE
Amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, defence supplies from Moscow are continuing as the Indian defence forces have received a shipment of overhauled aircraft engines and spares. However, there is concern about whether this would continue in the near future as a solution for making payment to Russia has not yet been found.
“The defence forces have received shipments from the Russians very recently and it is still on. So far, there has not been any glitch in supplies for our forces,” a government source told ANI.
“However, there are concerns on whether these supplies can continue in the same manner as the Indian side cannot make payments to these Russian firms in view of the sanctions related to their banks,” he added.
The sources said the Indian and Russian sides are working to find a way this issue can be overcome and many options are being explored.
The latest supplies from Russia included overhauled fighter aircraft engines and spares for an aircraft fleet and they arrived through the sea route, the sources said.
India also received the final parts of the S-400 Triumf air defence system from Russia whose first squadron is operational with its elements deployed to take care of threats from both Pakistan and China.
India is one of the largest users of Russian weaponry including major platforms like fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters, warships, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and submarines.
Over the last couple of decades, it has broadened its source base by including equipment from countries like the US, France and Israel in a big way but the dependence on Russia still remains very high.
The Air Force is dependent majorly on the Russian supplies as its mainstay Su30 aircraft fleet is Russian along with its Mi-17 helicopter fleet.
The Army is also dependent on the Russian-origin T-90 and T-72 tank fleet for the armoured regiments.
IAF, ARMY BRASS WILL ASSESS LAC SITUATION
The top brass of the Indian Army and Air Force would be assessing the preparedness of their forces and infrastructure requirements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the militaries of both India and China continue to remain in a standoff position in eastern Ladakh.
The Indian Air Force brass would be meeting this week from 6 April to discuss the security situation including air operations along the northern borders. The Indian Army commanders led by Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane would be assessing the present deployments along eastern Ladakh and the northeastern sectors from 18 April onwards in the bi-annual commanders’ conference.
The top brass of the Indian Army had jointly discussed the infrastructure requirements and developments required by the Indian side from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh during a conference in Lucknow recently.
India has made several changes in its deployments post aggression shown by Chinese troops in April-May 2020.
India and China have been talking to each other at both military and diplomatic levels to address the issues but so far they have not been able to do so mainly because of Chinese reluctance. In recent talks to address the Patrolling Point 15 friction, they proposed a solution that was not acceptable to the Indian side.
Indian security establishment led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been of the view that the issue would be resolved only if the Chinese completely disengaged and went back to pre April 2020 positions.The Indian side has strengthened its deployments manifold all along the LAC. The Indian Air Force has also started building advanced bases in the forward areas including infrastructure to operate fighter jets and attack helicopters from the forward fields such as Nyoma.
Sharp fall in infiltration of foreign terrorists, stone pelting: CRPF DG
There has been a sharp decline in the infiltration of foreign terrorists as well as in stone-pelting incidents in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 from the erstwhile state, Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh said on Thursday.
However, noting the targeted killings in Jammu and Kashmir, the officer said, “Some time there is a spurt in terrorist incidents” and the recent killing in “periodic series” are among those, and “it occurs”. Replying to queries during a press briefing here at the CRPF Headquarters, Singh said, “CRPF immediately try to control terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir soon after it gets inputs. These incidents are not totally controlled by internal terrorist people who are there. On many occasions, it is controlled by those sitting across the border and it is directed whom to be targeted or not.”
The CRPF DG reiterated that “some directions comes from foreign lands too”, and thus, “terrorist incidents some times increase and sometimes decrease” “It does not mean that things are out of hand…You can see that the incidents of stone-pelting are almost nil. There has been a sharp decline in the number of infiltration of foreign terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. Sometimes, there is a spurt in terrorist incidents but it happens,” he said.
The officer informed that the CRPF has neutralized 175 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir and apprehended 183 from March 1, 2021, to March 16, 2022.
Meanwhile, the CRPF has recovered 253 arms from Jammu and Kashmir and seized 7,541 ammunition as well as 96.38 kg explosives, 23 Improvised Explosive Device (IED), 232 grenades, and 36 detonators from the Union Territory, Singh said. Further, he informed that as many as 91 encounters have taken place from March 1, 2021, to March 16 this year. CRPF is the premier Central Armed Police Force (CRPF) entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the internal security of the country. It is deployed across the length and breadth of the country, assisting various state police in the discharge of their duties. CRPF is providing security cover to 117 protectees of various categories, he said adding that 32 women personnel have been inducted into the VIP Security Wing.
A total of 41 VIPs were provided security cover by the CRPF during recently concluded Assembly elections in five states, the DG said adding that the security of 27 protectees has been withdrawn post-elections. The CRPF chief also said that under financial assistance from the risk fund, ex-gratia for personnel martyred in action has been increased to Rs 30 lakhs from Rs 20 lakhs, and for all other cases, the ex-gratia has been increased to Rs 20 lakhs from Rs 15 lakhs.
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