Big boost for LCA Tejas program; first series production LCA Trainer takes to the skies
The successful flight marks a new chapter in India's quest for self-reliance and its efforts to strengthen its defence capabilities, says Defence and Aerospace Analyst Girish Linganna
India has achieved a major milestone in its defence sector as the first-ever series production standard LCA Trainer (LT 5201) manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) took its maiden flight on April 5, 2023, from HAL airport.
The aircraft completed a successful sortie of around 35 minutes, making this a significant achievement for the country. The successful flight marks a new chapter in India's quest for self-reliance and its efforts to strengthen its defence capabilities. This achievement is a testament to HAL LCA Tejas team’s continued efforts.
LCA Tejas Trainer: An Overview
The LCA Tejas program began in the 1980s with the aim to replace India's ageing MiG-21 fighters, but it later became a part of a general fleet modernisation program. The HAL Tejas is an Indian single-engine, delta wing, light multirole fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with the Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
The LCA Tejas Trainer is a twin-seater trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force. It is one of the three production models of the HAL Tejas, along with Tejas Mark 1 and Mark 1A fighter aircraft. The aircraft has a length of 13.2 m, a width of 8.2 m, and a height of 4.4 m. The maximum takeoff mass is 13,500 kg, and it is powered by a GE F404-IN20 engine with a thrust of 85KN.
The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.6 and can reach a service ceiling of 50,000 feet. It has 9 hard points for weapons. The Tejas Mark 1A is an improved version of the Mark 1 with an electronic warfare system, advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, beyond visual range (BVR) missiles, and a network warfare system comprising software-defined radio (SDR).
This achievement is significant because the LCA Tejas Trainer is a crucial component of the fleet modernisation program that India has been working on for several years. The success of the first sortie of LT 5201 is a crucial milestone in this program as it marks the beginning of the production of the LCA Tejas Trainer series.
The LCA Trainer will be used to train Indian Air Force pilots and will help in the process of developing indigenous capabilities in the aviation industry. This aircraft will provide Indian pilots with the experience necessary to operate modern fighter aircraft and will also be used to train future pilots for other Indian fighter aircraft.
The first flight of the LT 5201 was piloted by experienced HAL test pilots, Gp Capt Venu (Retd) and Wg Cdr (Retd) Awasthi. The success of this project was achieved with the support of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA), Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), and others involved in this project.
The cost of one LCA Tejas Trainer aircraft is around Rs 280 crore, making it the cheapest four-and-a-half generation aircraft available. HAL has already received eight orders for the LCA Trainer which will be delivered in the fast track mode. Several countries have shown interest in acquiring this aircraft due to its competitive pricing, which could be a significant boost for India's defence exports.
This milestone by the HAL LCA team also gives impetus to other trainer aircraft being manufactured by HAL, such as the Hindustan Turbo Trainer 40 (HTT-40).
Developing Indigenous Capabilities
The production of the LCA Tejas Trainer in series will help in the process of developing indigenous capabilities in the aviation industry and provide Indian pilots with the experience necessary to operate fighter jets in a more efficient and safe manner.
The LCA Tejas Trainer is also an important component of India's Make in India initiative, which aims to boost domestic manufacturing and reduce dependence on foreign suppliers. The production standard LCA Tejas Trainer boasts of more than 55 per cent indigenisation.
The successful maiden flight also signifies the confidence of the Indian Air Force in the LCA Tejas Trainer, which will be an important asset for the country's defence. The aircraft's advanced features, including its weapons systems, will enhance the capabilities of the Indian Air Force in carrying out air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.
The first production-standard LCA Trainer making its first sortie is a significant milestone for the country, the aviation industry, and the LCA Tejas Program. It represents a major step forward in the development of indigenous capabilities in the field of aviation, and it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Indian engineers and scientists involved in the program.
The successful maiden flight of the LCA Tejas Trainer marks a new chapter in India's quest for self-reliance and its efforts to strengthen its defence capabilities.