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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas - programme history & some balanced perspective

Air Marshal [Retd] MSD Wollen, under whose Chairmanship of HAL, commenced the LCA programme wrote this article.


An important point that he reiterates,

Project definition (PD) commenced in October 1987 and was completed in September I988. The consultant, chosen from four contenders, was Dassault Aviation, France. Engineers, connected with design and development of aircraft know how vital it is to get the 'definition' correct. From this flows detail de-sign, construction and eventually maintenance costs.

After examining the PD documents, the IAF felt that the risks were too high (likely shortfalls in performance, inordinate delay, Cost over-run, price escalations) to proceed further. A Review Committee was formed in May 1989. Experts from outside the aviation industry were included. The general view was that infrastructure, facilities and technology had advanced in most areas to undertake the project. As a precaution, Full Scale Engineering Development would proceed in two phases. Phase 1: design, construction and flight test of two Technology Demonstrator aircraft (TDI & 2); construction of a Structural Test Specimen; construction of two Prototype Vehicles (PVI &2); creation of infrastructure and test facilities. Phase 2: construction of three more PV '5, the last PV5, being a trainer; construction of a Fatigue Test Specimen; creation of facilities at various work centres. Cost of Phase I - Rs.2188 crores, of Phase II - Rs. 2,340 crores. Phase I commenced in 1990. However, due to a financial crunch, sanction was accorded in April 1993 and was marked by an upsurge in work.

- The Light Combat Aircraft Story by Air Marshal MSD Wollen (Retd)

While it may appear repetitive on this blog, it, however, is not without reason. Detractors of this programme [some maliciously motivated. The majority others, plain ignorant who buy in to the disinformation of the former] spare no opportunity to denounce that the Light Combat Aircraft project has been a colossal failure, since it has been going on since the early 80s and, till today, it hasn't entered service. As seen in the passage quoted above, the kind of aircraft that would be built was only decided in 1988, while the actual work started only in 1993. Thus starting from 1993, in within 15 years, in 2008, the LCA team succeeded in putting in air a production variant aircraft [LSP-1]. This, is without doubt, a remarkable feat of achievement for any development programme of such magnitude and complexity, and all this in a country that has no prior experience of its own of building a fighter aircraft. Take a bow Team LCA.


Related: Stealth version of India's Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas, Mk. 3 on the cards