Wednesday, 11 May 2011

LCA NP-1 Coming To A Sky Near You This July

The maiden flight of the naval variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will take to the skies in July, exactly a year after it rolled out from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL’s) Aircraft Research and Design Centre hangar in Bangalore.

“We would be conducting the first flight of the LCA Naval Prototype-1 (NP1) – a trainer aircraft -- in July. The aircraft is currently undergoing a series of ground tests, and preparations are on for the flight certification which is mandatory before the first flight,” said Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief controller R&D (Aeronautics and Service Interaction), Prahlada.

He said all agencies involved in the programme, like the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), HAL and the certifying agencies including Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Director General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA), are extremely cautious about ensuring that the first flight is carried out without any hassles. “Being the first flight of the LCA naval programme we are extremely careful. We want to ensure that everything is put in place before the first flight and that the programme is as successful as the Indian Air Force (IAF) version which has had no accidents since it started flight tests on January 4, 2001,” he said.

The LCA’s IAF version has an impeccable record of completing over 1,600 flights without any incidents. The LCA NP-1 is different from its IAF counterpart. It has a new, stronger and longer landing gear, an arrester hook for ship deck landing, front fuselage droop for better over-the-nose vision to facilitate landing on aircraft carriers, an additional control surface to reduce carrier landing speed and consequential changes in various systems.

The LCA NP1 will fly with a GE-F404-IN20 engine and is specifically designed for ski jump take off and arrested landing, with high landing loads compared to its IAF counterpart.
The Navy has placed an order for six LCA Navy aircraft and is expected to replace the depleting Sea Harrier squadron. The LCA Naval variants will operate alongside the MiG-29Ks by 2014.