Friday, December 2, 2016

India’s Light Combat Aircraft Advances with New Order

Neelam Mathews
Nov 30, 2016

One of the original batch of LCAs on display at the Aero India show in 2015. (Photo: Neelam Mathews)
India’s Ministry of Defense has cleared an order for 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), designated Mk1A, from government-owned defense manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). HAL currently has in hand an order for 40 GE F404-engined LCAs for the IAF. Of the 20 to be produced with an initial operational clearance, three have been delivered and the fourth is scheduled to be handed over by early next year. Twenty more will be supplied once they receive the final operational clearance (FOC) by end of 2017.
HAL says it will increase production from eight to 16 a year “once a formal order is received for the 83 Mk1As.” IAF Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha said last year: “We want the LCA Mk1A with an improved radar [Elta's ELM-2052 AESA or active electronically scanned array], electronic warfare, in-flight refueling and better missiles.” But a privately owned OEM said: “While there is to be joint work between HAL and Elta, we don’t know how much of the Elta AESA will be indigenous.” Other OEMs are interested. For instance, Saab confirmed recently to AIN that it is offering its Gallium Nitride technology, developed in Gothenberg, Sweden, for the LCA, rather than part of its Gripen proposal to India.  
The LCA Mk2 version, expected to be re-engined from the GE F404 to the F414, is planned for production by 2025. The Indian Navy has expressed its firm requirement for 46 LCA Mk2s that will require a weight reduction of one ton over the Mk1A. Delays to the naval LCA have been attributed in the past to technical complexities; non-availability of infrastructure and critical components and technology denial regimes; extended user trials; and the failure of some of the components during testing.
Meanwhile, an indigenous AESA Fire Control Radar is being developed for the Mk2 by Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), for which Bangalore-based Centum Electronics has designed and developed the Vibration Hardened OCXO (oven controlled crystal oscillators). “The function of OCXO is to generate the clock frequency of 120 MHz, which is in turn fed to a synthesizer that generates the required X-Band frequency for AESA,” said Vinod S. Chippalkatti, vice-president, Centum Electronics, to AIN. “The company was initially challenged three years ago to develop this product, since international companies were not able to meet the specifications and part with the technology. Centum is able to develop and deliver the product, which is lightweight, low-g-sensitive and its phase noise performance is excellent under vibration,” added Chippalkatti.
Meanwhile, under the offset contract not yet signed for India’s buy of 36 Rafales, Dassault Aviation is believed to have agreed to transfer special spray paint and coating technology of benefit to programs such as the LCA

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