By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas cleared a critical test point on Saturday, for its much-awaited Initial Operational Clearance (IOC-2), by firing an infrared (IR) seeking air-to-air R-73 E missile. The missile destroyed a target being towed by a pilotless target aircraft Lakshya, launched by an Indian Navy ship. The test was conducted off the coast of Goa and the flight was piloted by Gp Capt Suneet Krishna (retd), a Test pilot working with the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).
It was for the first time the Tejas proved its air defence role by firing a missile at a target using an onboard fire control radar, while the earlier tests were done using a helmet-mounted display (HMD) system. The test also paved the way for the IOC-2 declaration, now confirmed to be held in Bangalore on December 20. Defence Minister A K Antony will lead a power-packed delegation for the December 20 event, for which the preparations have already begun at the Old HAL airport.
K Tamilmani, Director-General (Aeronautical Systems), DRDO, told Express that the missile firing has almost closed all test points remaining in the programme, ahead of IOC-2. “The pilot took the aircraft to around 4.5 km above sea level, locked-on to the target (considered as an interceptor) and 'killed' it with pin-point precision. There are no major test points remaining and we are on track for the historic event on December 20,” Tamilmani said. The braking systems of Tejas (with maximum all-up weight) was also tested in Goa to ensure that they don't get excessively heated up, while landing.
While the programme has to go some more distance before the fighters get inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF), the onus post-IOC-2 will shift towards HAL for rolling out the production version aircraft. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited chairman R K Tyagi said with the R-73 E missile firing, Tejas has proven some of its independent capabilities. “Our aim now is to aid IAF quickly with the series production (SP) aircraft so that the squadron formation takes place as planned. There is definitely excitement in the air following the Goa trials, and we are on track to get the SP version out in phases,” Tyagi said.
Sources associated with the programme said every test point demanded by the certification agencies had been met. “All queries and counter-queries were demonstrated and relevant data was brought out. No more outstation trials are remaining ahead of IOC-2 and the last bit of surprises that might arise will be dealt locally,” an official said.
For the past few months engineers, designers and Test pilots from both ADA and HAL were on their toes clearing all test parameters for IOC-2. “There has been tremendous pressure on the Tejas team with the MoD monitoring the progress on a daily basis. The defence minister was personally tracking the progress of the missile firing, which was delayed by a couple of weeks owing to logistical reasons,” the official said. The missile firing was originally planned at Jamnagar and later shifted to Goa.
Copyright@The New Indian Express
[Look out for some inspiring stories on Tarmak007 as Tejas gets closer to IOC-2.]