Monday, 11 May 2015

LCA will not be able to penetrate enemy lines

The indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) will experience a major handicap in defeating the enemy due to non-availability and poor performance of three electronic warfare instruments, developed by Indian agencies.

During the trial, the all-important counter measure dispensing system that protects the aircraft against radar and heat-seeking missiles, could not do its job properly, leaving the jet with poor defence. The system was developed by , Hyderabad-based Bharat Dynamics Limited.

It was not the only faltering system on-board the LCA. The self protection jammer that blocks the enemy radar was too big to be fitted into the Mark-I version of the LCA and the radar warning receiver, which alerts the pilots on hostile enemy signals, perform poorly. Both were developed by Bangaluru-based Defence Avionics Research Establishment.

“LCA Mark-I remains deficient in full electronic warfare capabilities as specified in the Air Staff Requirement (ASR),” the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) says in a review report that was tabled in Parliament on Friday.

The aircraft, which achieved initial operational clearances on December 2013, has as many as 53 shortfalls from the specifications drawn in the ASR.

Some of the shortcomings like increased weight, reduced internal fuel capacity, pilot protection from the front and reduced speed are to be addressed in the Mark-II version that was taken up by the Aeronautical Development Agency in 2009 and scheduled for completion in 2018.

Even after 30 years, the LCA could get only the initial operational clearance (IOC) in December 2013. The full operational clearance (FOC) is now targeted in December, 2015.

The cost is also rising all these years. What began as a Rs 560 crore programme in 1983 has now gone up by almost twenty times. The financial package for LCA now stands at Rs 8294 crore.

The auditor also criticised the Defence Ministry for awarding two commercial contracts to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in 2006 and 2010 for delivering 20 fighter planes in each contract in the IOC and FOC configurations respectively to the IAF.

Both were termed premature because in 2006 LCA design was nowhere near finalisation, whereas in 2010 HAL was yet to supply any aircraft to the force as per the previous contract. Even now, the IAF is not in a position to operationalise the LCA squadron in the absence of a trainer aircraft. Moreover, HAL’s production capacity – four aircraft per year – is only half of what the government wants.

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