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India unveils naval version of light combat aircraft

The LCA being rolled out in Bangalore. A PTI Photo

BANGALORE (PTI): India's first Naval Light Combat Aircraft, the LCA (Navy) NP1, rolled out here on Tuesday with Defence Minister A K Antony describing the occasion as a “defining and a memorable moment.”

The aircraft, which has been assembled at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) facility here, is now ready to undergo systems integration tests, leading to ground runs, taxi trials and flights, officials said.

“It is a defining and a memorable moment as it will give boost to indigenisation,” Antony said at the event, attended by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma, Secretary (Defence Production) and top officials of HAL and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The warplane has been developed under the prestigious Naval Programme of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

The LCA (Navy) NP1 is the first indigenous effort to build a complete air element for the Navy. The aircraft will fly with US-made GE-F-404-IN20 engine and is specifically designed for ski jump take off and arrested landing, with high landing loads compared to its Air Force counterpart.

The first test-flight of the new aircraft is expected by this year-end.

The development of LCA (Navy) NP1 and its fighter counterpart (NP2) is aimed at providing a formidable platform with a higher thrust engine and an optimised mass for suitable replacement to the ageing Sea Harriers at a later date.

The aircraft, with considerable technology and punch for years to come, is being designed to operate from the future indigenously built aircraft carriers the Navy plans to acquire, officials said.

The formal sanction by the government for the Naval programme was given in the year 2003. The first stage of development includes design and fabrication of one trainer and one fighter – NP1 and NP2 respectively – along with a shore based test facility (SBTF) in Goa, to simulate carrier take off and arrested landing.

A complete airframe called structural test specimen required for structural testing is also being done as part of the programme.

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