Aircraft carrier-based LCA Tejas-N program may be aborted

In the coming months, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) will be evaluating whether it should, or shouldn't, continue to invest in the development programme of the aircraft carrier-based variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, which is dubbed Tejas-N (for Naval).

China possible customer of Russian Sukhoi Su 57 stealth fighter jet Two LCA-Tejas fighter aircraft made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (Picture Source: HAL)

NDTV, on Tuesday, published a report in which was stated that the Indian MoD was seeking a six-month period to arrive at a decision about this problem. This comes as India already has invested about $US 504 million in the project.

The aim of this six-month period of evaluation is to determine whether the prototypes of the Tejas-N, which are currently undergoing tests, will result in a multi-role carrier-borne fighter, or not. Until now, the Tejas-N has been tested with a sink rate of 5.1 m/s, whilst the value required to qualify for carrier-trials is of 5.6 m/s. This is not sufficient but Indian engineers working on the project claim that they will be able to reach the 5.6 m/s within the six-month period.

The team in charge of developing the fighter told NDTV that key landing trials of the fighter will be conducted on a shore-based version of the aircraft carrier deck. Then, trials on India’s INS Vikramaditya carrier will be carried out based on the shore-test results. Test pilots will then have to perform several touch-and-goes on the deck of the Indian carrier before a full-fledged arrested landing. Though, the arrestor gear of the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya has key differences from the gear installed at the shore-based test facility, which therefore could bring some problems to the project too.

In addition to that, the LCA Tejas-N could also suffer from the competition with the Western fighters that the Indian Navy recently sought to acquire. Actually, the Indian Navy invited requests for proposals (RfPs) for a tender to procure 57 multi-role Western fighters to operate off its Indigenous Aircraft Carrier-2 last year. According to Financial Express, the deal is valued at $US 14 Billion. Whether the Navy will have enough funds to procure Tejas-N aircraft after acquiring the Western jets remains a question, the report added.