Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is
the smallest lightweight multirole supersonic aircraft in the world. The
aircraft has been designed to fly at a maximum speed of 1800 km per hour.
With state-of-the-art technologies in every aspect of design and
development, this single-seat, single-engine tactical fighter from India
is among the best in the world in its class.
In order to make it the most
reliable aircraft, a number of test facilities and integration rigs have
been developed for qualification of LCA systems and sub-systems. They
include Iron Bird-hardware-in-the-loop simulator for Integrated Flight
Control System (IFCS), Real Time Simulator (RTS), Dynamic Avionics
Integration Rig (DAIR), Cockpit Environmental Facility (CEF), Engine Test
Bed Secondary Power System Test Rig, Fuel System Test Rig, Environment
Control System Test Rig, Wing Test Rig, Structural Coupling Test Rig,
Electrical System Test Rig, Lighting Test Facility (LTF), Undercarriage
Drop Test Rig and Brake Dynamometer.
The first test-flight of LCA
technology Demonstrator-I was successfully carried out on January 1
last year. The second successful flight was carried out on June 6 this
year. Regular flight-tests are being carried out to check any discrepancy
in the components of the aircraft. Up till now fifteen test flights have
been successfully carried out. It is also proposed to demonstrate the
flight during Aero India- 2003 in Bangalore.
Initially, the LCA project was
started with interim GE404F2J3 engine of USA. However, at present it has a
fully indigenously built Kaveri, a twin spool low bypass turbofan
engine with flat rated thrust for tropical conditions to enhance combat
power. The other main features are : full authority digital electronic
control unit for engine control, external fuel tanks and in- flight
refuelling capability to enable long range deployment and a jet fuel
starter for ground starts and inflight relight. The mission of LCA
programme is to design and develop a world-class fighter for Indian Air
Force to replace MiG series of aircraft and to create technology base
within the country for such a development as for survival in today's
battlefield, agility and manoeuvrability are crucial.
The use of advanced aerodynamic,
structural, avionics and control system design methodologies and systems
has given LCA an all-weather, day/night capability with excellent mission
and point performance. LCA's emergence has led to the development in
state-of-the-art materials, manufacturing processes, computational and
test facilities at the national level, taking the country to technological
self-reliance. LCA signifies the dawn of the new era in fighter
development in India.
The development efforts for the LCA
are spearheaded by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under the
Department of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). ADA's
responsibility includes project design, project monitoring and promoting
the development of advanced aeronautic technology of relevance to the LCA.
Several laboratories of the DRDO have contributed to the LCA Programme.
Development of LCA flight control system at Aeronautical Development
Establishment (ADE), Kaveri engine development at Gas Turbine
Research Establishment (GTRE), carbon brake pads and Kevla radome at
Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), multi mode radar at
Electronics Research and Development Establishment (ERDE), design of
control law at Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR),
Control and Coding Unit at Research Centre Imarat (RCI), brake parachute
at Aerial Delivery Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE),
integrated life support system at Defence Biomedical Engineering
Laboratory (DBEL), investment casting for JFS at Defence Material Research
Laboratory (DMRL), electronic warfare suite at Advance Systems Integration
and Evaluation Organisation (ASIEO) and Hack aircraft at Centre for Air
Borne Systems (CABS) composed the programme. National Aerospace
Laboratory, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Vikram Sarabhai Space
Centre (VSSC) and other laboratories such as Indian Institute of Chemical
Technology (IICT) and SAMEER have also contributed in a significant way.
Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)
and other academic institutions actively participated in some of the
software development activities. Thus, the technology base created for LCA
amply demonstrates a national will to achieve self-reliance in the defence
- Baljit Singh Menon