The Navy variant of the HAL LCA Tejas, currently under development, reached a new milestone by successfully completing its first arrested landing test.
Developed by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is the first fighter jet designed and built in India since the HAL Marut in the 1960s. It made its maiden flight on January 4, 2001, and the delivery of a first squadron to the Indian Air Force started in January 2015. The variant for the Indian Navy is still under development. It should be operated from the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
The INS Vikramaditya, a Kiev-class carrier acquired from the Russian Navy in 2004, is currently using the MiG-29K. The locally-built INS Vikrant, to be delivered by 2021, was supposed to operate the same Russian aircraft, after the Indian Navy rejected the naval variant of the Tejas deemed “too heavy” in 2016.
But on September 14, 2019, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of the Indian Ministry of Defence released footage from the first successful “textbook” arrested landing of the Navy LCA on a 90-meter runway. The test took place at the INS Hansa facility in Goa, southwestern India. “This arrested landing heralds the arrival of true indigenous capability and displays the professional prowess of our scientific community”, says the ADA. The latest test seems to confirm that the Navy LCA is once again considered.
The next step will be to test the arrest capability on an aircraft carrier. Arrested landing requires stopping as quickly and as safely as possible an aircraft that comes at high speed.
This speed is necessary to be able to take off again if the pilot fails to catch one of the arresting cables (three on the INS Vikramaditya) with the tail hook. This technique is highly demanding for the structure of the aircraft. For this reason, the Navy variant of the LCA features a strengthened airframe and landing gear.
The Navy LCA should eventually be powered by a General Electric F414 engine, more powerful than the F404 currently equipping the regular Tejas. The Indian Navy is looking into acquiring 40 of the aircraft. As for the Indian Air Force, it is currently receiving its previous order of 30 LCA fighter jets and should place an order for 83 additional aircraft in the coming weeks.