Naval Tejas Mk-2:- Advanced Variant of LCA Tejas For Indian Navy

Twin- and single-seat carrier-capable variants were developed for the Indian Navy. The LCA’s naval variant was intended to be ready for carrier trials by 2013 and was slated for deployment on the INS Vikramaditya as well as the Vikrant class aircraft carrier. It will be equipped for carrier operation with the capability to carry out ski-jump take-off and arrested landing. It will include strengthened airframe and landing gear and the nose is drooped for better cockpit vision.

The LCA (Navy) is India’s first indigenous effort to build a carrier borne naval fighter aircraft, a vital ingredient in the navy’s expansion plans. It is designed to operate from the future Indigenous aircraft carriers, the Indian Navy plans to acquire. It will use ski-jump for take-off and arrested landing for aircraft carrier operations. The naval LCA uses a drooped nose section for better view and strengthened airframe structure for aircraft-carrier operations.

The LCA Navy team from the beginning was aware that it would be a challenging task to develop a deck based aircraft that very few countries have successfully negotiated, and which was being attempted for the first time in the country. At initiation, it was anticipated that the conversion of an Air Force version to a Naval version with specific attributes would entail about 15% change. However, as the detail design and development process unfolded, the teams involved realized that the changes were almost to the extent of 40% to 45%.

Notwithstanding this, the maiden flight of the first Naval Prototype (NP1) took place within nine years of government approval, which meets worldwide standards. What this effort has also done is generate a considerable knowledge base in the country in understanding the nuances of carrier borne aircraft design.

In addition, a new leading edge control surface, viz., LEVCON was introduced to facilitate reduction in approach speeds for deck recovery. Due to this being a first-time effort to design and develop a carrier borne fighter aircraft, there was conservatism in the plan-form leading to a mass increase by about 400 to 500 kg. This is why the thrust available for deck take-off fell short of mission objectives. It was thus decided that the LCA Navy Mk1 would be only a ‘Technology Demonstrator’ and utilized to conduct carrier suitability tests and demonstration.

Having resolved the issue of sourcing material for the landing gear of the naval variant of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) slated the inaugural flight for late 2009. The naval fighter aircraft is a twin-seater variant with the nomenclature NP1 (naval prototype one). It would look similar to PV-5 (prototype vehicle five) of the LCA being developed for the Indian Air Force (IAF), though the naval aircraft will be powered by a more powerful engine. It will be a replacement for the British-made Sea Harrier jump jets currently used by the Navy. The Navy has placed intent to procure 40 aircraft.

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LCA Navy Mk2

The naval LCA project was approved by the Indian government in 2003, with the first stage of development comprising two LCA Navy Mk 1 flight test articles – a trainer prototype (NP-1) and a fighter aircraft prototype (NP-2) – and a static test article, all built to the Mk 1 design. Since then, another trainer, NP-5, has been approved; its airframe is under construction.In addition, two more Mk 1 fighter aircraft prototypes are planned to be built – although the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is yet to formally fund these test articles.

The second stage of the LCA project involves building two Mk 2 flight test articles – NP-3 and NP-4, both in a single-seater configuration. The concept design of the definitive Mk 2 version is understood to have been completed. The Mk 2 is, in essence, a major redesign of the Mk 1 for enhanced mission performance and improved maintainability.The Mk 2 will incorporate a more powerful General Electric F-414 INS6 engine as well as landing gear, arrestor hook, and internal layout developments, a reduced nose droop to improve aerodynamic performance, and other drag reduction features.

It will also feature a fuel dump system, increased fuel capacity, a retractable inflight refueling probe, and an onboard oxygen generation system.The avionics suite will feature the new Uttam active electronically scanned array (AESA) multimode radar, an upgraded flight control computer, and an improved cockpit layout. Defensive systems will be enhanced with a new integrated electronic warfare suite.

Crucially, unlike the LCA Navy Mk 1, which was adapted from an air force variant, the LCA Navy Mk 2 will be optimised ‘ab initio’ to be a carrier-borne naval fighter aircraft, according to a project official. It is understood that the Mk 2’s first flight is now expected to take place around 2020.According to industry sources, the Indian Navy has a requirement for over 50 Mk 2 airframes, to be formed into two squadrons.” as stated in recent article in this article on IHS Jane.The LCA (Navy) Mk2 is being designed primarily to provide air defence to the fleet onboard Carrier and meeting all the mission objectives set out by the Indian Navy. Significantly improved aircraft performance largely better than AF-Mk1 and integration of a full suite of weapons are capabilities inherent in the design.

The main contributors to improvement in LCA(Navy) Mk2 have been identified as higher thrust engine, an increased wing area, an area ruled and streamlined configuration, lighter landing gear and structure, and improved systems layout towards better safety and maintainability.

But other important changes will optimise the fighter for carrier operations. Weight will be shaved off the undercarriage, which will be accommodated inside a lengthened wing, freeing up space in the centre fuselage for an additional 700 litres of fuel. This will give the fighter an extra 20-25 minutes of flight endurance. In addition, the tail hook will be engineered afresh.

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AESA Radar

The Mark 2 may feature an indigenously developed active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire control radar named Uttam. The Mk2 will also see the incorporation of a new electronic warfare suite which is being jointly developed with Israel.

The external stores capacity will be increased to 5,000 kg (which is 4,000 kg in Tejas Mk 1).

Cockpit

The naval version will also equipped with a new electronic warfare suite which is being jointly developed with Israel.It will also have a new glass cockpit with larger 8×12 inch displays.The MK2 will have some 20-30% parts in common with the Mk1 and these parts are already in the production.

The ADA chief has argued forcefully in the defence ministry, and Parrikar has accepted the need for a step-by-step approach to naval fighter design, rather than attempting a huge technology jump by designing a fifth-generation Naval AMCA. They believe that first designing an optimised naval fighter — the Naval Tejas Mark II — would develop capabilities realistically and incrementally.

Fleet air experts note the US Navy’s struggle to build the carrier deck version of the Joint Strike Fighter, called the F-35C. Although America has built carrier deck aircraft for a century, the technology leap attempted in the F-35 created issues that are still being resolved.

Compared to this our naval tejas is still at its infancy. The readers should also keep in mind that unlike the west, we had no prior experience of developing fighter jet (HAL Marut was a great effort but the program was killed by effective lobbying of foreign companies). Coupled with the sanctions imposed on us due to pokhran tests, our fighter jet program was further pushed back.

The Naval tejas is a fine lady, but she needs a bit of reworking and ingenuity of the engineers and designers to overcome it’s weight issue. But that will take time and so the navy has to choose a fighter to plug it’s operational gap after the retirement of Sea Harriers in March this year From Dassault Rafale and F-18

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