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09:34 AM, June 12, 2019
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LCA Tejas (image: Rushabh P Bafna)

Ministry of Defense (MoD) of India is evaluating whether it should continue to invest in the development programme of aircraft carrier-based version of the country’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the Tejas.

The MoD is seeking a six-month time period to arrive at the decision, according to a report published by NDTV on Tuesday.

The government has already invested $504.8 million (INR 3,500 crore) on the project. It will assess whether the prototypes of the Tejas-N (Naval), currently undergoing tests, will result in a multi-role carrier-borne fighter. It will also analyse whether the advanced variants of the prototypes, “LCA-N Mk-2,” be developed, manufactured and deployed within a finite period of five to seven years, the report said.

To make a smooth “arrested landing,” an aircraft has to maintain a near-constant air speed of between 240-260 kmph (130-140 knots) as it makes its final approach, descend rapidly over the deck of the carrier, land, snare an arresting wire on the runway with a hook mounted in its fuselage, and then come to a violent halt in just 130 metres.

A fighter is must be undamaged even when it slams down on the deck of the carrier with a sink rate (rate of descent) of 7.5 m/s. Tejas-N has been tested for 5.1 m/s while the value required to qualify for carrier-trials is 5.6 m/s. Engineers and pilots in the project are certain that they are on track to meet their landing certification target.

The team in charge of developing the fighter told NDTV that key landing trials of the fighter will be conducted on a shore-based version of the aircraft carrier deck.

Trials on India’s INS Vikramaditya carrier will be carried out based on the shore-test results.

Test pilots will then have to perform several touch- and- goes on the deck of the Indian carrier before a full-fledged arrested landing.

In addition, INS Vikramaditya’s arrestor gear, used to rapidly slow down an aircraft as it lands, has key design differences from the gear installed at the Shore Based Test Facility where the LCA-N is now being tested.

The Indian Navy invited requests for proposals (RfPs) for a tender to procure 57 multi-role western fighters to operate off its Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-2 last year. According to Financial Express, the deal is valued at $13.7 Billion (INR 95,000 crore). Whether the Navy will have enough funds to procure Tejas-N aircraft after acquiring the western jets remains a question, the report added.

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