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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tracking the Tejas: LSP-7 will fly in August: ADA chief

Tejas formation flight photo by B. Satheesh Kumar, SPO (Defence), Chennai 
By Abraham V. Kuruvilla
P.S. Subramanyam
The 7th Limited Series Production (LSP-7) platform of India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas will now take to the skies in August 2011. Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) head Mr P.S. Subramanyam confirmed to Tarmak007 in Bangalore on June 14 that the programme is well on track, despite the delays.
“Productionisation is a gradual process. The LSP-7 and LSP-8 aircraft will be very close to the final version, not just in terms of the design, but also in terms of how they are manufactured. As things stand now, the LSP-7 will fly in August and the LSP-8 in November,” the ADA chief said. Tejas LSP-5 first flew on November 19 2010. (LSP-6 will be an experimental vehicle specifically for high Angle of Attack. LSP-7 will be the 12th aircraft joining the Tejas flight-line, spanning over 10 years.)
ADA-HAL had earlier said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) would have the LSP-7 and LSP-8 for user evaluation trials by March 2011. In the meantime, the IAF has already begun the process of squadron formation.
Justifying the reasons for the slight delay for the last two LSPs to join the flight-line, Mr Subramanyam said: “The first phase was to show that the product was good and we have demonstrated this. Everything is performing well. Now, the focus is on creating world-class facilities for productionisation, induction, and product support. So far, we have been on a ‘suit-on-assembly mode’, fit for prototypes as the designers would often alter sub-components to maximize the performance of the aircraft.  Now that the design parameters have been proven, the programme is moving on to a type of production mode that will optimize time and cost savings.”
Assuring that the availability and serviceability of Tejas would be ‘world-class,’ the ADA chief said that it is not enough just to create a great product alone.  “The facilities for maintenance and operations –- be it the ground-handling equipment, the tools, the testers, the documentation –- all should be the best in the world. The reason why Embraer [the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer] has a great reputation is because the availability of its fleet is so high — about 80-90%. Similarly, the availability and serviceability of the LCA should be world-class and we are heading in the same direction,” he said.        
Mr Subramanyam said that a team of technicians and ground-support personnel would assist the IAF in establishing the Tejas Squadron at the Sulur Air Base (near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu). “For proper product support, personnel have to be identified and trained.  Labs and maintenance facilities have to be set up.  During the transition phase, we will be involved with all of this,” he said.
The Tejas platforms (all combined) have logged over 1,650 flights so far, clocking close to 1,000 hours. “After we cross the 1,000-hour mark, we will have a small celebration,” the ADA boss said, smiling and stroking his trademark well-trimmed beard. 
(Posted by the author, a Tarmak007 intern from Madras University.
Limited updates on the blog till July first week.)
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