LCA naval variant's first flight on Friday

After almost two years since its rollout, the naval prototype (NP-1) of the country’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will take to the skies on its maiden flight this Friday.

The flight is slated for 10 am. But it will fly with some unresolved problems. The maiden flight, however, does not mean the team LCA has overcome all the technical glitches that had forced it to miss several deadlines in the past.

The Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC), sometime last week, gave its clearance for High Speed Taxi Trial (HSTT) and flight.

The flight will last 20 minutes with the National Flight Test Center (NFTC) pilots doing a sortie over a designated flight path besides testing the systems onboard for performance.

But they will not retract the undercarriage, as they do not want to take a chance. “It is potentially risky to retract it,” a source said, indicating that there are some problems still persistent. The undercarriage is retracted to reduce the drag experienced by aircraft.

Compared to Tejas, the IAF version of LCA, the LCA NP-1 will be different with a longer and stronger gear, front fuselage droop for better over-the-nose vision, an additional control surface to reduce carrier landing speed and consequential changes in various systems and will fly with a GE-F404-IN20 engine.

Designed specifically for ski jump take-off and arrested landing, the aircraft was faced with heavy undercarriage problem, which sources fear might not have been addressed completely. The undercarriage was bulkier by 500 kg.

The aircraft is likely to replace Indian Navy’s Sea Harrier squadron, and already orders for six aircraft have been placed. While the NP-1 is a twin-seater trainer, the NP-2 will be a single-seat fighter.

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