Cru­cial to IAF plans, all eyes on LCA Te­jas Mk.2

SP's MAI - - SP’S EXCLUSIVES -

With the In­dian Air Force (IAF) all but of­fi­cially writ­ing off the LCA Te­jas Mk.1 as a fast jet trainer with limited of­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties, all eyes are now on the LCA Mk.2 that will sport a more pow­er­ful en­gine and an up­graded flight en­ve­lope. The Aero­nau­ti­cal De­vel­op­ment Agency (ADA) has been told in no un­cer­tain terms that the fu­ture of squadron num­bers de­pends largely on how the Mk.2 avoids the pit­falls of its pre­de­ces­sor. The ques­tion, there­fore, is: Will the LCA Mk.2 ful­fil all IAF re­quire­ments and emerge, on time and cost, as the front­line in­ter­cep­tor? The IAF is hop­ing it will be to shore up squadron num­bers and op­er­ate across the coun­try.

The ac­tion taken re­port on the Mk.2 so far doesn’t in­spire great con­fi­dence. The ADA has so far com­pleted a pre­lim­i­nary de­sign re­view of the GE414-INS6 tur­bo­fan en­gine, but moved no fur­ther. Sys­tems de­signs of fuel sys­tem, hy­draulic sys­tem, elec­tri­cal sys­tem, en­vi­ron­ment con­trol sys­tems were com­pleted in the 2012-13 pe­riod and limited sys­tem de­sign reviews had been car­ried out at the time, but not moved for­ward in a sub­stan­tive man­ner.

Fab­ri­ca­tion of 1:15 scales force & mo­ments mod­els and 1:7.645 scale air in­take mod­els were com­pleted, while wind tun­nel tests at the Calspan Cor­po­ra­tion in Buf­falo, New York. ADA has also man­aged to com­plete the pre­lim­i­nary de­sign re­view of the In­te­grated Flight Con­trol Sys­tem and crit­i­cal de­sign re­view of the GTSU-127 Jet Fuel Starter. A re­design of the ver­ti­cal sta­biliser (fin) of the LCA Mk.2 has been car­ried out to based on changes re­quired to ac­com­mo­date con­for­mal an­ten­nas that will form part of the plat­form’s im­proved elec­tronic war­fare suite. Stud­ies of an al­ter­nate gun for LCA MK.2 were also car­ried out, with de­tailed stud­ies still on to zero in on a fi­nal weapon, likely to be the Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23. After eight op­tions for in-flight re­tractable re­fu­elling probes pro­posed by Cob­ham, U.K., weren’t found fea­si­ble, a ninth op­tion has been cho­sen, with de­tailed stud­ies in progress to fi­nalise the con­fig­u­ra­tion.

Com­ing to the LCA Navy Mk.2, things are slightly more com­pli­cated. The sec­ond and third pro­to­types NP3 & NP4 will be Mk.2 vari­ants of the LCA Navy, while NP5, a sec­ond trainer is un­der build as a risk mit­i­ga­tion ex­er­cise. As is well known, the main con­tribu- tors to im­prove­ment in LCA Navy Mk.2 are higher thrust en­gine (the F414), in­creased wing span, lighter land­ing gear and struc­ture, and im­proved sys­tems lay­out to­wards bet­ter safety and main­tain­abil­ity. A de­sign con­sul­tancy with Air­bus De­fence & Space (ear­lier EADS/ Cas­sid­ian) has been ini­tialised fol­low­ing its as­sis­tance in the LCA Navy Mk.1. In the in­terim, com­pu­ta­tional fluid dy­nam­ics (CFD) stud­ies on sev­eral con­fig­u­ra­tions of LCA Navy Mk.2 have been car­ried out. Per­for­mance es­ti­ma­tion with new GE-414-INS6 en­gine has also been car­ried out. The next phase will in­volve wind tun­nel test­ing. De­sign it­er­a­tions of LCA Navy Mk.2 sur­face ge­om­e­try has also been un­der­taken based on sug­ges­tions made by de­sign con­sul­tant Air­bus D&S and have been eval­u­ated with CFD stud­ies. “Mean­while, based on the de­sign sug­ges­tions, de­sign teams in­volv­ing aero­dy­nam­ics, struc­tures and var­i­ous groups are work­ing on the con­cept de­sign of LCA Navy Mk2,” says the ADA.

An im­proved land­ing gear de­sign, sup­plied by Air­bus De­fence & Space is cur­rently un­der re­view for im­ple­men­ta­tion on the Mk.2. “This would re­duce land­ing gear mass con­sid­er­ably,” ad­mits ADA. All is­sues re­lated to land­ing gear ob­served dur­ing ini­tial block of flight test­ing on the NP1 have been rec­ti­fied. Part fab­ri­ca­tion of the ar­rester hook assem­bly and the ac­tu­a­tor-cum-damper assem­bly have been progress at ADA. The ar­rester hook assem­bly has been in­te­grated on the NP2. A mod­i­fied ar­rester hook sys­tem con­for­mal to the fuse­lage is be­ing stud­ied for im­ple­men­ta­tion on LCA Navy Mk2.

The LCA Mk.2, both Air Force and Navy vari­ants, are in­tended for far im­proved per­for­mance across the flight en­ve­lope, in­clud­ing higher turn rates, ac­cel­er­a­tion and climb, a much smaller lo­gis­tics and main­te­nance foot­print, longer en­durance with a larger fuel car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, a vastly im­proved elec­tronic war­fare suite and a full weapons ca­pa­bil­ity, in­clud­ing beyond visual range air-to-air mis­siles, stand-off strike weapons and anti-ship mis­siles. The G lim­its on the Mk.2 will be up from +8/-3.5 to +9/-3.5. The plat­form will also sport an on­board oxy­gen gen­er­a­tion sys­tem and will be 45 per cent com­pos­ites by weight.

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