LCA NP-1 during the EGR at Old Bangalore Airport in September 2011. Photo: DRDO
By Anantha Krishnan M.
Express News Service
Bangalore: It's official. The undercarriage of the naval version (Naval Prototype NP-1) of India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is bulky by 400-500 kg. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), who are jointly developing the NP-1, is burning the midnight oil to iron out what they call 'nagging developmental issues.' NP-1 is a trainer with tandem seating and NP-2 will be a single-seat fighter.
Insiders associated with the programme attributed the delay in NP-1's first flight to the undercarriage. “In September 2010, we observed that the undercarriage was over-sized. During traction-retraction and the undercarriage's incorporation into the fuselage, there were many surprises awaiting us. This is a very critical piece with the hitting impact on the ship going to be much higher,” an official with HAL's Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) said. The official claimed that the issues related to the arrestor hook, landing gear and LEVCONs (control surfaces which allow for better low-speed handling) are being addressed completely. Interestingly, the undercarriage was built by HAL.
With the Naval Project Team (NPT) monitoring every bit of the NP-I closely, the official told The New Indian Express that all future aircraft in the naval programme will come with a new undercarriage. In September this year, NP-1 had successfully completed the engine ground run (EGR) and the taxi trials are set to begin soon. “We will fly the NP-I with the same undercarriage making some slight corrections. If a lighter undercarriage has to be integrated at this stage, it will delay the programme further. We cannot rush the project. Young boys are putting their hearts out and working seven days a week. Making planes are not child's play,” the official said.
Sources at ADA say that efforts are in full swing to make the fly NP-1 ahead of Navy Day (December 4). Capt Maolankar of National Flight Test Centre is likely to fly NP-1 on its maiden flight. During the roll out of NP-1 on July 6, 2010, an excited Defence Minister A K Antony had said that he was confident that the ADA-HAL-Navy team would swing it and make NP-1 fly by December end. “It will be the best New Year gift to the nation,” Antony had said then.
With yet another New Year throttling down for a landing, it is left to be seen whether Team NP-1 can gift Antony an X'Mas gift in the form of a first flight.
Weight and watch!
Copyright@The New Indian Express