Flight tests of indigenous combat jet on schedule

March 3rd, 2008 - 8:33 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) The flight test programme of the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) “is progressing as per schedule” and it has flown 829 missions since it first took to the skies eight years ago, parliament was informed Monday. “Efforts are being made to accelerate the flight tests,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, adding: “Presently, no need is felt for a strategic partner” for the further development of the jet.

“Regular review meetings are being conducted involving Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Indian Air Force (IAF) and other concerned agencies to take collective decisions and coordination,” the minister said.

“To complete the project at the earliest, a top level review is being conducted by the Chief of Air Staff once in every quarter and a review by the Deputy Chief of Air Staff once in every month,” Antony added.

So far, Rs.48 billion has been spent on developing various versions of the LCA, the minister said.

Interestingly, the DRDO had said last month it was open to taking on a strategic partner to further develop the indigenously developed Kaveri engine that will eventually power the LCA.

Current versions of the aircraft are powered by General Electric engines.

In January, French aerospace and defence major had said it was “heavily involved” in the LCA project, as also other DRDO programmes like the Dhruv advanced light helicopter, the Indian Army’s Pinaka rocket launcher and the Arjun main battle tank (MBT).

“India is one of the three countries where we are seeking to expand our global footprint. We will be making significant investments here over the next few years,” Paris-based Safran CEO Jean-Paul Herteman had told reporters here.

Last month, Defence Minister Antony had said Indian defence scientists had achieved a “breakthrough” with the IAF agreeing to induct two Tejas squadrons.

“In the past, the IAF was not willing to accept even one light combat aircraft (Tejas). But now, after trials, they have agreed to induct two squadrons,” Antony said on the sidelines of the DEFEXPO-2008 international defence exposition here Feb 16-19.

“This is a breakthrough,” he added.

The LCA programme was launched in 1983 to primarily replace the IAF’s ageing fleet of MiG-21 fighters and also boost the nation’s indigenous aerospace industry.

The programme was eventually named Tejas in May 2003. Some 100 defence-related organisations, academic institutions and research bodies are associated with the programme.

The delay in the Tejas project has forced the IAF to float a global tender for 126 multi-role combat aircraft, for which a request for proposal (RFP) has been sent out to six manufacturers, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Eurofighter.

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