By N.C. Bipindra
New Delhi, (IANS) In a boost to India’s indigenous maritime combat plane development programme, a top defence panel has approved the limited series production of the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) for the Indian Navy’s under-construction indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC).
The approval came from the Defence Minister A.K. Antony-headed Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) at its meeting last week, a top defence ministry official told IANS Monday.
“The nod is for production of nine of the LCA-Navy,” the official said.
The approval comes even as the project was finding the going tough over the plane’s General Electric F404 engine providing inadequate power — about 80 kiloNewtons — for a carrier-borne fighter.
Therefore, India’s first home-built carrier-borne combat jet may finally be powered by GE F414 engine that provides 90 kiloNewton thrust to meet the specifications for LCA-Navy.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) project will see the light of the day soon, with the aircraft going through its first flight this year, followed by the necessary approvals for final operational clearance in the next three-four years, in time for the IAC’s induction.
The 40,000-tonne IAC is under construction at the Cochin Shipyard, and will carry about 30 combat planes, apart from choppers.
The LCA-Navy had a significant milestone in its development process with the first successful ground-run of its engine in September last year.
The Indian Air Force has ordered seven squadrons – about 140 aircraft – of the LCA and its induction is expected to begin next year.