Fakir Chand in Bangalore
The successful test flight of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft -- LCA-TD2 -- in Bangalore on Thursday has propelled its main collaborator, the Aeronautical Development Agency to enter into a contract with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the co-production of LCA's first limited series.
LCA programme director Kota Harinarayana said the government has sanctioned Rs 30 billion for the production of LCA in a limited series consisting of five prototype aircraft and eight aircraft for induction.
"The first LCA will be delivered in 2006 and the last by 2008. They will be inducted in the Indian Air Force by the end of the decade. LCA-PV1 -- the first in the series of five prototype vehicles -- has already rolled out fully equipped and is in the advanced stage of system integration trials for flight test by this year-end," Harinarayana said.
Contrary to earlier reports, the LCA prototypes will also be fitted with GE F-404 engines, thanks to the lifting of US sanctions against India last year by President George Bush.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation officials said that ADA and HAL might induct the Kaveri engine, which is being developed for the LCA.
The US administration had blocked export of all space, defence, and aviation technology and products to India in the aftermath of the Pokhran nuclear tests, conducted in May 1998.
"The government has shown commitment to the LCA programme by approving a limited series production of eight aircraft initially. As the production will be undertaken by HAL in Bangalore, it has set up a full-fledged production team with a general manager in charge," scientific adviser to the defence minister V K Atre said.
On the occasion of signing the memorandum of understanding by ADA and HAL, Defence Minister George Fernandes said that the threat of obsolescence was a reality, particularly with respect to electronic systems.
"To combat this threat in the LCA programme, a concerted effort has been made to introduce an open-architecture avionics system, which permits hardware scalability," Harinarayana said.
Fernandes told rediff.com that several countries had evinced keen interest in joining India in the LCA project with substantial investments to bear its development and production.
"During my recent trip to Singapore for attending a security conference, a number of South East Asian countries expressed willingness to join India in sharing the cost of the multi-billion dollar LCA project," he said
The single seat, single engine tactical fighter has been rated as among the best in the world in its class.
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