By Abraham V. Kuruvilla
Close to one year after its roll out (July 6, 2010), the first prototype of India’s ambitious Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) naval variant (NP-1) is overcoming a series of technological challenges that have cropped-up during its development stage. NP-1 is a trainer version of the naval variant with tandem seating, while NP-2 will be the fighter version and single-seater.
Having missed many deadlines (which is understandable considering the complex issues involved with a naval platform), the officials now say that the much-awaited first flight would take place only in September. This too only if all the issues are ironed out.
Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) P.S. Subramanyam tells Tarmak007 that the delay is mainly due to the challenges being posed by some of the new technologies during the integration stage. “We had problems related to the landing gear, arrestor hook, and LEVCONs (control surfaces which allow for better low-speed handling). This is how technology development occurs. Now we have sorted out all major issues and have tested all naval systems. The structural coupling test has also been completed. The NP-1 is now ready for the engine ground run,” he said.
Normally, the first flight can occur approximately six weeks after the engine ground run. “After the EGR, we will have the low and high-speed taxi trials and then the first flight. Developing the NP-2 is our next task. Being a single-seater, the development of NP-2 will be faster,” the ADA chief said.
He said the shore-based test facility (SBTF) coming up in Goa is proceeding ‘ahead of the schedule.’ By October 2011, the take-off area will be ready and by next year (2012) the landing area too will be in place.
NP-1 is the first indigenous effort to build a complete air element for the Indian Navy. With a GE-F-404-IN20 power-plant, NP-I is designed for ski jump take off and arrested landing, with high landing loads. The platforms after NP-1 and NP-2, will be powered by the GE-F-414 engines.
(Posted by the author, a Tarmak007 intern from Madras University.
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