Thursday, December 01, 2016

India’s Light Combat Aircraft Advances with New Order

India’s Ministry of Defense has cleared an order for 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), designated Mk1A, from government-owned defense manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). HAL currently has in hand an order for 40 GE F404-engined LCAs for the IAF. Of the 20 to be produced with an initial operational clearance, three have been delivered and the fourth is scheduled to be handed over by early next year. Twenty more will be supplied once they receive the final operational clearance (FOC) by end of 2017.

HAL says it will increase production from eight to 16 a year “once a formal order is received for the 83 Mk1As.” IAF Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha said last year: “We want the LCA Mk1A with an improved radar [Elta's ELM-2052 AESA or active electronically scanned array], electronic warfare, in-flight refueling and better missiles.” But a privately owned OEM said: “While there is to be joint work between HAL and Elta, we don’t know how much of the Elta AESA will be indigenous.” Other OEMs are interested. For instance, Saab confirmed recently to AIN that it is offering its Gallium Nitride technology, developed in Gothenberg, Sweden, for the LCA, rather than part of its Gripen proposal to India.

The LCA Mk2 version, expected to be re-engined from the GE F404 to the F414, is planned for production by 2025. The Indian Navy has expressed its firm requirement for 46 LCA Mk2s that will require a weight reduction of one ton over the Mk1A. Delays to the naval LCA have been attributed in the past to technical complexities; non-availability of infrastructure and critical components and technology denial regimes; extended user trials; and the failure of some of the components during testing.
30/11/16 Neelam Mathews/AINonline

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