After playing a prominent supporting role in the Light Combat Aircraft naval prototype’s tricky landing and take-off debuts from a Navy ship last week-end, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd eyes the prospect of fully designing and developing a twin-engine fighter plane for the Navy if or when an occasion comes up.
Asked what the successful twin acts of naval prototype NP2 mean for its manufacturer HAL, company Chairman and Managing Director R. Madhavan said the recent ship-based trials will, of course, not translate to business from the Navy unless a twin-engined fighter project formalizes from the Force.
Mr. Madhavan said, “It is our desire that the twin-engine Navy project is given to us so that we can design LCA-Navy as required. Such a step will lead to speeding up the project.”
HAL has already been deeply involved in the ongoing deck trials of the two naval prototypes; it has produced them for the Defence Research & Development Organisation DRDO. The defense public sector company has contributed to designing sub-systems of the LCA project – a plane that was originally started for the Air Force.
The DRDO’s special arm ADA or the Aeronautical Development Agency in Bengaluru is tasked with designing and developing the LCA versions and future indigenous fighter planes.
HAL said much critical paraphernalia and support staff for the naval prototype were its contributions, both before and during the recent trials on the ship.
It contributed the arrestor hook system, a redesigned landing gear, a speed controlling device for landings, a drooping nose to give the pilot a good view, a stronger fuselage, and the fuel pump.
“We anyway design the LCA structures. Our engineering is proven. If it is possible to extend it to the full project, it would speed up the R&D,” Mr. Madhavan said.
“If a twin-engine naval aircraft project should come up, then HAL can offer the Navy a deck-based aircraft.” With a design house each in Bengaluru and Nashik, he said HAL was up to taking up such a task.
The two Navy prototypes NP1 and NP2, seen as potential trainers, are derived from the IAF version of the indigenous light fighter. A production standard version called NP5 has also been considered.
All these are single-engine while the Navy indicated in 2016 that it needed only two-engined aircraft. With a double-engine LCA being some time away, more so for the Navy, it is an area of interest for its stakeholders.
The second LCA-Navy prototype LCA-NP2 achieved two technologically challenging feats. On January 11 it did an arrested landing on the relatively narrow decks of the carrier INS Vikramaditya and took off the next day ìn what is called the ski-jump style.
Underlining the achievement, Mr. Madhavan said only 3-4 countries have such a technology to deploy or land their fighters from the limited confines of a carrier.
Currently, HAL’s fixed-wing design house is working on the HTT-40 basic trainer aircraft.
About the scope for a naval aircraft fleet, an informed person said its current fleet of Russian origin MiG-29Ks is expected to go obsolete around 2028-32. Another opportunity to replenish naval aircraft could arise if the country goes in for a third aircraft carrier around the year 2040 as envisioned for the long term.
Source: The Hindu