Naval LCA Lands on INS Vikrant, Achieves a Major Milestone

Indian Navy

New Delhi: The Naval variant of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) achieved a major milestone – as it landed onboard the country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) INS Vikrant on February 6.

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“A Historical milestone achieved towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat by Indian Navy as Naval Pilots carry out landing of LCA (Navy) onboard INS Vikrant,” Indian Navy said in a statement. “It demonstrates India’s capability to design, develop, construct and operate IAC with indigenous fighter aircraft,” it added.

This is also the maiden landing of a fixed wing aircraft on the carrier as part of its operationalisation. Post commissioning, efforts are currently under way to operationalise the aviation complex of the carrier after which it would be ready for operational deployment.

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In January 2020, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had demonstrated successful arrested landing of Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) on INS Vikramaditya and subsequently, 18 take-offs and landings were conducted in five days. However, the Navy has projected a requirement for a twin engine aircraft to operate from the carrier and DRDO has now embarked on developing a Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF) being on the experience of the Naval LCA.

INS Vikrant was commissioned into the Navy last September. The aviation trials are to be carried out post commissioning. The ship powered by four General Electric engines uses an aircraft-operation mode known as Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) for which it is equipped with a ski-jump for launching aircraft, and a set of three ‘arrester wires’ for their recovery onboard.

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The carrier would be operating initially the existing Mig-29Ks in service, while a decision on procurement of an advanced fighter, between the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and the Dassault Aviation Rafale, is expected in the next few months. In 2017, the Navy had floated Request For Information (RFI) to procure 57 twin engine carrier fighter which is now set to downsized to around 26 including few twin seater trainer variants, with the TEDBF in the pipeline.

Expected to be the mainstay in the long-term, the TEDBF envisaged as a twin engine medium weight fighter with an all up weight of 26 tonnes and wing folding is being developed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of DRDO. The project under development is expected to get approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) by mid-2023 and could be inducted into the Navy by 2031-32, according to ADA officials as reported by The Hindu earlier.

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The Naval LCA-Mk1 made its maiden flight in April 2012 from the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa and two prototypes have been flying as part of the development. It is designed with stronger landing gear to absorb forces exerted by the ski jump ramp during take-off, to be airborne within 200m and land within 100m as against 1000m required for normal runways.