The naval variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) powered up its engine on Monday evening, with its first Engine Ground Run (EGR) in Bangalore.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Defense says the run had the ‘primary objective of checking aircraft-to-engine integration and activation of the various systems like Flight Control, Hydraulics, Fuel, Electrical, Avionics’, which it said were ‘successfully achieved’.
The aircraft in question, NP1 (Naval Prototype 1) is also the prototype for an LCA trainer aircraft. Since the naval variant is a heavier platform, with a strengthened undercarriage, and NP1 was conceived as a twin-seater aircraft, it was decided to use the naval platform for the LCA trainer prototype as well. The LCA, itself, is a single-seater aircraft.
Besides the navy, Indian Air Force (IAF), Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the team behind the LCA Navy also includes personnel from the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC), Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA) and laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
The NP1 is still not ideally suited for carrier-based operations, with the current GE-F404 engine slightly underpowered. This will change with the development of the naval version of the LCA Mk II, which will be powered by the GE-F414 engine.
But at the moment, development work will proceed on issues like the Fly-By-Wire system and the Flying Control Authority, which assures pilots of adequate control during low-speed, high-impact landings on carrier decks.
The ministry said the aircraft undergo refinements based on feedback from the build-up and and the EGR, ‘followed by a series of final integration checks and taxi trials before its maiden flight shortly’.