The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Navy programme, which has been lying low for almost a year, has once again taken to the skies. It was reportedly kept on hold after Indian Navy rejected the project, saying that it did not suit the requirements. Pictures of LCA Naval Prototype (NP-2), with an arrester hook, has been doing rounds for the last few days, indicating that the programme has been revived. NP-2 took to the skies on July 23 and this was the 56th flight of the jet’s technology demonstrator. Importantly, this flight of the prototype was the first since March 2017. The Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the nodal design and development agency of the LCA programme, confirmed that a successful test was carried out on July 23. NP-2, a single-seat fighter, is one of the two technology demonstrators of the LCA Navy programme, with the other one being NP-1, a two-seat aircraft. In 2016, questions were raised about the future of the LCA’s Naval variant after Navy chief Sunil Lanba said that the aircraft wouldn’t suit its aircraft carriers. He even said the Navy was looking for an alternative solution. Since then, questions have been raised about the future of LCA Naval programme and the number of test sorties has also come down drastically. The last test flight, involving NP-1, was in May 2017. The LCA Naval programme commenced in 2003 and the first flight of NP-1 was in 2012, and the maiden flight of NP-2 in 2015. The flight of NP-2, with an arrester hook, assumes significance as it indicates that the aircraft is now readying itself for tests in the days to come at a designated facility in Goa. NP 2 is the lead aircraft for arrestor hook integration, according to sources.
The aircraft’s technical features
- LCA will operate from an Aircraft Carrier with a concept of Ski-jump Take off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR). Aircraft gets airborne over a ski jump in about 200 m and lands 90 m using an arrester hook
- Derived from the Air Force version it is a longitudinally unstable fly-by-wire aircraft, making it an agile war machine.
- Flight Control system is augmented with Leading Edge Vortex Controller (LEVCON), helping reduction in approach speed for Carrier Landing
- Auto-throttle function reduces pilot load by maintaining constant angle of attack during the critical phase of a flare-less carrier landing
- Fuel Dump System enables safe landing by reducing weight in event of an emergency landing immediately after launch from carrier