The future light combat and close air support jet of the Indian Navy: the HAL Tejas (Image © Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)

Press play: Indian Tejas takes its first jump

The Indian Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) passed another milestone on Saturday 20 December 2014, as Navy two-seat variant NP-1 took off using the ski jump at Indian naval air station INS Hansa in Goa for the first time. The test should prepare the Tejas for future deployment aboard India’s aircraft carriers.

The navy variant of the Tejas LCA is India’s first indigenous effort to build a carrier borne naval fighter aircraft. 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.

Aircraft NP-1 was the first the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa, which was built to simulate real carrier operations. NP-1 flew for the first time on 27 April 2012.

In other Tejas news, the Indian Air Force is set to receive its Tejas at Bangalore in its initial operational clearance (IOC) configuration in March 2015, a mere 32 years after the go-ahead for the LCA program was given. The first IOC standard aircraft performed its first flight in October this year.

The type’s final operational clearance (FOC) seems a long distance away though, as weapons integrations and an air-to-air refueling capability seem to have been delayed.

Still, if FOC is achieved, the Indian Air Forces still has a lot of desires left, first among which is  more  a powerful engine than the current GE F404-IN20 engine. A preliminary design review – including the GE F414 engine –  has been made for Tejas LCA Mark-II, with a first flight expected no sooner than 2017.

© 2014 editor Elmer van Hest