In a major boost to the naval variant of the indigenously designed and manufactured Tejas light combat aircraft(LCA) Tejas, the plane for the first time performed an ‘arrested landing’ on Friday on Shore Based Test Facility(SBTF) in Goa. After more such trials which include landing on short strip, the pilots will then try to land at aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. Once successful, a squadron of Tejas will be deployed on the aircraft carrier. The IAF has already inducted a few Tejas aircraft.
The two-seater fighter jet in the latest test used a hook mounted on its fuselage to snare an arrestor wire to rapidly come to a halt after landing and this ability to halt in a very short distance is a key feature needed for operations on board an aircraft carrier when it is moving or anchored. Moreover, the short landing is extremely important given the limited space on the deck of the aircraft demanding high skills of the pilot and the capabilities of the aircraft. At present, the lone aircraft carrier operates MIG-29s.
The test replicated the conditions on the aircraft carrier where the jets have to snag the wire on the deck of the ship so as to stop immediately within the limited length of the landing strip, Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO)sources said here. The SBTF is specifically built to train naval pilots complex manoeuvres of landing on the short flight deck of an aircraft carrier which is important step before they move on to the actual carrier, they said adding the arrested landing feat has been achieved by very few countries including the US, Russia, UK, France and China.
The naval LCA undertook its maiden flight in April 2012 and two prototypes are now flying as part of development. The first prototype of the Naval LCA made a successful first flight from the SBTF in 2014.
The naval variant of the LCA is designed with stronger landing gears to absorb forces exerted by the ski jump ramp during take-off, to be airborne within 200 m, as against 1,000 m required for normal runways. Its special flight control law mode allows hands-free take-off, reducing the pilot's workload, as the aircraft leaps from the ramp and automatically puts the aircraft in an ascending trajectory.
Incidentally, the then Naval chief Admiral Sunil Lanba had stated during his annual press conference in2016 that the LCA in the present form "does not meet the carrier capability which has been specified by the Indian Navy ", adding that they would continue to support the development programme. He had said in response to a question stated that the current weight of the naval LCA with the underpowered engine did not allow it to fly from an aircraft carrier.