The naval variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas made a successful short arrested landing on the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa on Friday. This is a big step forward in the delayed project for the LCA to eventually operate from an aircraft carrier.
“Today, the first-ever arrested landing of LCA [Navy] at the shore-based test facility, INS Hansa Goa, which will pave the way for this indigenous platform to undertake aircraft carrier landing demonstration on board INS Vikramaditya,” the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said in a statement.
The LCA made its maiden successful trap on the SBTF with the tail hook of the aircraft connecting with the arrestor wire on the deck and coming to halt within a short distance, a defence source explained.
The naval LCA made its maiden flight in April 2012 and two prototypes have been flying as part of the development. The first prototype (NP1) made a successful first flight from the SBTF in 2014.
“The flight lasted about 40 mins and the aircraft carried out arrested landing on the SBTF within 90m as required,” another defence source said. The aircraft, Naval Prototype (NP)-1, is a twin seater but was piloted only by chief test pilot Commodore JA Maolankar, the source added.
Tough landing gears
The SBTF, which replicates the flight deck of an aircraft carrier was specifically built to train naval pilots in the complex manoeuvres of landing on the short flight deck of an aircraft carrier before they move on to the actual carrier.
The naval LCA is designed with stronger landing gears to absorb forces exerted by the ski jump ramp during take-off, to be airborne within 200m and land within 100m, as against 1,000m required for normal runways. Its special flight control law mode allows hands-free take-off, relieving the pilot workload, as the aircraft leaps from the ramp and automatically puts the aircraft in an ascending trajectory, sources had stated.
In December 2016, then Navy Chief Adm Sunil Lanba stated that the LCA in the present form “does not meet the carrier capability which is required by the Navy” but added that they would continue to support the development programme. The current weight of the naval LCA with the underpowered engine did not allow it to fly from a carrier, he said.
The Navy currently operates Russian MiG-29K fighters from INS Vikramaditya. They will also fly from the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant once it enters service.