May 31, 2012
India will build a stealthier version of its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), but in the near term it is getting ready to build the Mk. 2 version of the aircraft, with the goal of reaching operational clearance in 2016.
The LCA Mk. 2 will feature the General Electric F414 engine. The first of the prototypes is likely to be designated LSP9, with seven-eight prototypes to be built. A four-year program is planned, says V.K. Saraswat, head of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and chief scientific advisor to the country’s defense minister. First flight should take place in the next two years.
The Mk. 3 would follow several years later. The concept is still being fully defined, but Saraswat expects it to have up to 70% composites. It also will encompass stealth features now in development within the Indian research establishment, including into serpentine ducts that would shield the engine face from direct radar hits to improve low observability.
Saraswat also expects to launch the development effort for a new airborne warning and control aircraft in late 2014. It would be based on a yet-to-be selected widebody. The aircraft would augment the three Il-76 AWACS already in service and the coming fleet of Emb-145-based airborne early warning systems. The first of the latter is due for delivery to India in August, with integration of the Indian active, electronically scanned array radar to start in October.
LCA photo: Indian Defense Ministry