Thursday, 27 June 2013

AK Antony sets December deadline for final delivery of LCA Tejas

It will be a race against time for the developers of the Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas, as Defence Minister A.K. Antony has set a December 2014 deadline for the final delivery of the home-made fighter.
But going by the amount of work remaining on the aircraft, it will be a rush for the scientists to get the final operational clearance within the stipulated time. To achieve the target of getting combat ready, more than 1,200 parameters still need to be met.

The most crucial issues include getting a new radome for the aircraft as the quality of the previous one was found to be hampering radar performance.

Antony on Monday held a review of the Tejas, which is in the making for the last 30 years. The latest intervention from the ministry means that the project will be among the top priorities for DRDO, which has Dr Avinash Chander as its new chief.

The ministry has also asked Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to enhance its facility to produce 16 aircraft a year.

This again would be a gigantic task considering the fact that HAL took years to maintain the schedule of delivery of Sukhoi-30 aircraft after it was given the licence to produce in the country.

The delay in delivery of Sukhois has already impacted IAF’s operational readiness. The fresh impetus was needed as the aircraft missed another deadline this month when it was due to obtain second initial operating clearance (IOC).

November 2013 has been set as the new deadline for getting IOC-2, which is a crucial step before the aircraft is finally certified to be ready for induction. It takes more than a year to obtain final operating clearance (FOC) after the IOC.

The first IOC for the aircraft was obtained in 2011. Officials said the process of getting the radome, which houses the Israeli radar, from an indigenous source can itself take at least a year’s time.

On an average, 80 issues are addressed every month. There have been progress on many counts, admit officials, but a number of issues are yet to be resolved.

The cost of the LCA project has now crossed more than Rs.20,000 crore though it was initially pegged at Rs.560 crore in the early 1980s. The IAF is looking to raise only two squadrons of this version of the aircraft which is powered by GE-404 engines whose thrust is not adequate.

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