The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas aircraft, in its final operational clearance (FOC) configuration will have a new, thicker canopy with the Indian Air Force (IAF) having demanded the same. The same canopy is also to be used in the Tejas Mk-1A aircraft, which will be more advanced.
The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) team has already begun work on redesigning the canopy and put it on the test bed, sources working on the project said.
The Tejas R&D team has reworked the frame to accommodate the new canopy for the advanced model of Tejas, which will measure 24 mm as opposed to the existing 16 mm.
“The existing canopy lining could only hold a 16 mm glass, which had to be changed to accommodate 24 mm. Now the challenge would be to procure fresh glasses, as HAL had already made some purchases of the 16 mm glasses for the canopy, which is of no use now,” a person working on the LCA project said.
Since the changes were made to the structure, Tejas will have to be certified by the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC), which a senior official from the LCA project said will not be a problem as the reworked canopy has tested well on the test bed.
“The IAF has said that they now want the canopy to be able to negotiate a 40gm bird-hit as opposed to the 20gm that Tejas offered earlier. We will have to achieve as part of the FOC,” a senior member privy to developments said.
Besides, the IAF has also asked for mid air-refuelling capabilities in the night, which will see Tejas get another addition: a drogue light at the end of the refuelling probe. “These refuelling tests will also take a few months, as we have only recently achieved the wet tests in the day,” another source said.
While some of these changes has allowed HAL to begin manufacturing of the FOC configuration aircraft—orders for 20 of which have been placed—the defence PSU is banking on new orders of the 83 Tejas MK-1A to revive itself.
As reported earlier by TOI, HAL is staring at a depleting order book, with most of the major orders scheduled to be delivered by March 2020. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had recently said that the orders for 83 Tejas worth Rs 50,000 crore are in the pipeline. However, with cost negotiations still ongoing, HAL was unsure when the actual orders might be placed.