Achieving yet another major milestone in its development cycle, Light Combat Aircraft Tejas (Navy) on Monday (September 29, 2019) completed the launch and recovery or arrested landing in a single sortie at the Shore Based Test Facility INS Hansa, Goa. As part of the test flight, LCA Tejas Naval Prototype-2 launched off the ski jump at 4:21 pm and 10 minutes later the aircraft "trapped" on the arresting gear site at Shore Based Test Facility INS Hansa to demonstrate that it was making steady progress towards becoming India's indigenous carrier-based fighter.
Calling it "a seminal achievement", the Ministry of Defence stated, "Being a pioneering technology acquisition and demonstration program for the unique Short Take-Off but Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) concept of aircraft operations, the LCA (Navy) team has had to conceptualise and experiment with complex software modes from a clean slate. All this had to be done while tentatively exploring and incrementally expanding the structural capabilities of the aircraft to withstand the brutal requirements of carrier operations."
"The exploratory nature of this stage of the programme necessitates experimentation with multiple software options and hardware configurations. These include multiple configurations of aerodynamic surfaces, different flight control strategies, avionics tools and display symbols to ease the piloting task, multiple iterations to the “mechanicals” (dampers/structural members/contact points) etc," the statement pointed out.
"Comprehensive and seamless integration of all these experimental variants simultaneously into a single platform is therefore not possible till all options have been evaluated and the preferred configuration has been decided. The events on September 29, 2019, therefore, demonstrate the completion of the basic exploration phase of the programme and transition to refinement and improvement iterations," it added.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Indian Navy for the successful feat. Secretary, Department of Defence, R&D and Chairman DRDO Dr. G Satheesh Reddy also congratulated the organisations involved for the achievement.
Tejas had till now taken off from the ski jump and then made an arrested landing during two different sorties. The completion of the launch and recovery in one sortie is a milestone which demonstrates that the combat aircraft is finally getting ready for aircraft carrier operations.
Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya has a ski jump which allows the combat aircraft to launch from its runway jumping up. LCA Tejas (Navy) needs stronger landing gears than the aircraft taking off and landing on a runway on the ground as it will operate from a carrier. The plane should also get airborne in less than 200 metres as against an almost 1000-metre long runway needed by combat aircraft taking off from a ground-based runway.