India’s Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lamba, has ruled out the deployment of the India’s Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) on Indian Navy aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and Vikrant, because it falls short of requirements, particularly in terms of weight. In his inaugural press conference as Chief of Staff on December 1, Admiral Lamba said the Indian Navy will support the development of the Tejas, which is a programme being undertaken by the Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, but it will look for an alternative fighter aircraft to operate from the two carriers in at least the interim period. He said a new fighter will be sought in five or six years’ time, but conceded there were not many aircraft currently in the marketplace capable of operating from the ski-jump of the current vessels. Prior to the announcement, the Indian Navy had a requirement for 50 LCA aircraft.
Admiral Lamba told reporters: “Unfortunately, the light combat aircraft is not able to meet the carrier’s required capability [and] that is why we need an alternative aircraft to operate from these two ships. There are not too many options available and we need this carriercapable aircraft sooner rather than later, so I am looking at the next five or six years.” The Indian Navy has recently inducted the Mikoyan MiG-29K to operate from INS Vikramaditya and will reportedly also operate the Russian aircraft from the Indian Navy’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant (IAC1) when it enters service in 2018.
In May, the two LCA Naval Prototypes 3001 (c/n NP-1) and 3002 (c/n NP-2) were deployed to the Indian Navy’s Shore Based Training Facility at Goa to undergo a series of carrier compatibility tests, including the use of the facility’s ski-jump ramp.
In better news for the troubled Tejas programme, the Indian Ministry of Defence announced on November 8 it had approved the purchase of 83 Tejas Mk1A aircraft for the Indian Air Force.
The interim Mk1A Tejas aircraft will follow a batch of 40 Mk1 initial operational clearance aircraft and will address some of the issues found during the Mk1’s operational testing, including a reduction in weight of around 1,000kg (2,200lb).