The LCA (Navy) is India’s first indigenous effort to build a carrier borne naval fighter aircraft, a vital ingredient in the navy’s expansion plans. It is designed to operate from the future Indigenous aircraft carriers, the Indian Navy plans to acquire. It will use ski-jump for take-off and arrested landing for aircraft carrier operations. The naval LCA uses a drooped nose section for better view and strengthened airframe structure for aircraft-carrier operations.

The LCA Navy team from the beginning was aware that it would be a challenging task to develop a deck based aircraft that very few countries have successfully negotiated, and which was being attempted for the first time in the country. At initiation, it was anticipated that the conversion of an Air Force version to a Naval version with specific attributes would entail about 15% change. However, as the detail design and development process unfolded, the teams involved realized that the changes were almost to the extent of 40% to 45%.

Recently naval version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)  has successfully completed the first test of the fighter jet’s arrestor hook or tail hook system, used to rapidly decelerate and stop an aircraft when it lands on the deck of an aircraft carrier at sea. The test took place earlier in August at a naval air station located near Dabolim in Goa, India.

Naval Tejas will also feature a fuel dump system, increased fuel capacity, a retractable inflight refueling probe, and an onboard oxygen generation system.The avionics suite will feature the new Uttam active electronically scanned array (AESA) multimode radar, an upgraded flight control computer, and an improved cockpit layout. Defensive systems will be enhanced with a new integrated electronic warfare suite.

The main contributors to improvement in LCA(Navy) Mk2 have been identified as higher thrust engine, an increased wing area, an area ruled and streamlined configuration, lighter landing gear and structure, and improved systems layout towards better safety and maintainability.

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But other important changes will optimise the fighter for carrier operations. Weight will be shaved off the undercarriage, which will be accommodated inside a lengthened wing, freeing up space in the centre fuselage for an additional 700 litres of fuel. This will give the fighter an extra 20-25 minutes of flight endurance. In addition, the tail hook will be engineered afresh.

Naval AMCA

Dr. Girish Deodhare, Director General, ADA speaking to the Indian media has confirmed that flexibility studies of Carrier based 5th generation fighter aircraft based on AMCA design have been completed and the flexibility study report has been accepted by Indian Navy and the program is set to enter design phase by end of this year. Indian Navy in 2016, had approached ADA to develop a carrier deck version of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and soon flexibility studies were commissioned in 2017 to see if it is viable to convert Airforce-AMCA design into Carrier based 5th generation fighter aircraft.

While ADA is tight-lipped on proposed changes which AMCA will have to go through to be converted into a Carrier based 5th generation fighter aircraft, Industrial sources close to idrw.org have said that ADA is well aware of challenges that it will face in the program and is counting on Navy Mark-2 program to provide necessary experience that it believes will act as a stepping stone towards the development of N-AMCA program.

Indian Navy which has worked closely with ADA on the development of Naval LCA is confident that same technology already developed can be adapted for AMCA.

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Naval-AMCA will also need to make space for structural reinforcements and have the ability to carry additional fuel and not to forget reinforced landing gears, tail hooks, and larger wings to for increased low-speed control for carrier landings. Naval-AMCA will also weigh more due to the strengthening of the air frame which might result in additional thrust requirements required by the Naval-AMCA to make carrier takeoffs with reasonable weapons load and fuel.

Navy is ready to deploy its own team to help ADA develop Naval AMCA independently customised as per Navy requirements. Indian Navy and ADA are likely to discuss funding and design feasibility this year. Naval AMCA will require hardening of the fuselage, reinforced undercarriage and new landing gear system for carrier-based operations.

Of late, it is heard that Indian Navy has downgraded its requirements (specifications) of AMCA aircraft as compared to what IAF has demanded.

“This is since it is typically difficult to match land based aircraft’s performance requirements for a heavier carrier based plane (due heavier undercarriage etc),” the navy officer quoted above says. “But we have sought better over the nose visibility required for a tail-hook aircraft on approach for landing and capability to operate on both CATOBAR and STOBAR carriers (since we expect both our STOBAR carriers to be still around when the new CATOBAR, IAC-2 is envisaged to get commissioned).”

Indigenous Fifth-generation fighter jet project is very crucial to country’s sovereignty and integrity. Far too many times hopes of the countrymen in seeing timely development of quality indigenous systems, have been belied. One more time we hope against hope that powers that be are listening.

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