Ravi Sharma

  • `LCA Induction Team' will be stationed in Bangalore
  • Team likely to be headed by an Air Vice Marshal

    Bangalore: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to dedicate a team of its officers to oversee the logistical problems that may crop up during the induction and operation of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) into squadron service.

    The "LCA Induction Team" to be stationed in Bangalore will possibly be headed by an Air Vice Marshal. This is an indication of the determination of the Air Headquarters to ensure that the induction of the indigenously developed LCA into its squadrons takes place smoothly and as per schedules.

    The decision also reflects the desire of the IAF to be more "forceful" in its participation in the multi-crore LCA programme that has seen numerous cost and time overruns. The team is expected to be in place as soon as the Air Headquarters chooses officers from various commands and works out procedural modalities such as whether officers should be posted or sent on deputation.

    Sources told The Hindu that the team would oversee aspects such as technical specifications, maintenance, spares support, generation of user manuals, user and operational evaluation, training programmes, simulation methodology, setting up of laboratories and workshops in air bases where the LCA would be based, ground support equipment, and manpower required at the new LCA bases.

    According to a senior official from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which has been responsible for the design and development of the LCA, the idea of an IAF team stems from the fact that disconnect between designers, technicians and pilots should be minimised. "From the technical point of view, we know that the LCA is foolproof, but it should also be comfortable operation wise. The presence of an IAF team will help us to transfer technologies to the next level of people (technicians and pilots)," the official said.

    However, this is the first time that the IAF is setting up a dedicated team to oversee aspects of the LCA programme. The need for such an induction team is also a confirmation of how desperately the IAF, which is faced with a depletion in its combat fleet, thanks to a phase out of a large number of aircraft especially from the aging MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27 stables and the inordinate delay in the acquisition of the 126 multi-role combat aircraft, requires the LCA.

    The IAF has placed an order (worth upwards of Rs. 2,000 crore) for 20 Tejas aircraft, deliveries of which, according to schedules should start in April 2009. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is expected to roll out eight aircraft every year.