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India's Light Combat Aircraft completes 1000 sorties

The proud LCA team with the aircraft at the background on Thursday. DRDO photo

BANGALORE (BNS): India’s ambitious project to indigenously build a combat jet achieved a major milestone on Thursday when a prototype of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas (number KH2012) took off from here. It was the 1000th sortie of the aircraft which is expected to be inducted into the Indian Air Force in the coming years.

Those involved in the development of the prototype hailed it as an important achievement as the aircraft was reaching a decisive stage. All the systems worked fine and it symbolised that the project was on the right track.

Programme director of LCA, P S Subramanyam, claimed that the Tejas team had become a role model for executing large research and development programmes in the country.

The first flight of Tejas as a technology demonstrator had taken place in January 2001.

The aircraft had flown for only 18 minutes on its maiden journey. LCA is being developed to meet operational requirements of the Indian Air Force. The aircraft is expected to replace the ageing fleet of MiG-21s. The officials said the first phase or the full scale engineering development phase was aimed at demonstrating four key technologies: quadruplex redundant digital fly by wire system, a complete glass cockpit, carbon composite primary structures and microprocessor based control of utility systems.

At the moment, the project is in phase-II where the objective is to hand over the aircraft to IAF. At the moment, seven aircraft have been flight tested. They include: three aircraft from the Technology Demonstration phase (TD1, TD2 and PV1), while the others are PV2, PV3 and LSP1 and LSP2. The later versions are the ones which are closer to what the IAF would get.

The glass cockpit has been tested with operational sensors like the DASH helmet and Laser Designation Pod. An air-to-air missile (R-73) has also been fired. Last year, the aircraft was operated from extreme hot conditions during summer and also the cold and rarified environs of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. The officials hope that the aircraft would be ready for induction into the IAF by December 2010.

Chief test pilot of the National Flight Test Centre Captain JA Maolankar said: “For a project that has so ambitiously pushed the envelope of indigenous technology, the results have been world class in many key areas.”

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