HAL rolls out the Naval Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 6 July 2010

HAL rolls out the Naval Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)

Amidst fanfare and smoke, the Naval LCA rolls out of its hangar. HAL is learning from Bollywood!

L to R: Ashok Nayak, CMD HAL; RK Singh, Secy Def Production; Adm Nirmal Verma, CNS; AK Antony, Defence Minister; VK Saraswat, MD DRDO; Dr Prahlada, CC DRDO; PS Subramaniam, Director ADA

Rocky Balboa atop the Naval LCA

The MoD press handout on the occasion of the rolling out of the Naval LCA is appended below:


New Delhi: Asadha 15, 1932
July 06, 2010

The country’s first Naval variant of Light Combat Aircraft, the LCA (Navy) Trainer Naval Project (NP) – 1 was rolled out by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Aircraft Research and Design Centre at a glittering function in Bengaluru, today. The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma, Secretary Defence Production Shri RK Singh, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister Dr. VK Saraswat, Chairman, HAL Shri Ashok Nayak, Director Aeronautical Development Agency Shri PS Subramanyam were present on the occasion.

Congratulating the stakeholders in the development of the first indigenously developed carrier-bone Naval Trainer Aircraft, Shri Antony described today’s development as a ‘defining and memorable event’ for the nation. He said the prophets of doom have been silenced by a series of major breakthroughs of DRDO-led projects in recent times. He gave the examples of MBT Arjun, LCA and Akash missiles, which are now being adopted by the Forces. Shri Antony said the goal of self-reliance can be achieved by developing synergy among the scientists, the Forces and the public and private sectors.

The LCA (Navy) will form the air element of the Indian Navy. Its primary role will be that of air defence and will provide a formidable platform with a higher thrust engine and an optimised mass for suitable replacement to the ageing Sea Harriers at a later date. The only carrier-bone aircraft in the light category in the world, it will be operating with a wide variety of operational weapons and equipment like the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile, Anti-Ship missiles, Conventional bombs, Air Defence guns, CCMs and drop tanks. The NP1 is now ready to undergo the phase of systems integration tests leading to ground runs, taxi trials and flight. The first flight of the NP1 would happen by the end of this year. The aircraft would be flying with GE-F-404-IN 20 engine and is specifically designed for ski-jump take off and arrested recovery, with high-landing loads compared to its Air Force counterpart.

The formal sanction by the Government for the Naval programme was accorded in the year 2003. The first stage of development includes design and fabrication of one Trainer and one Fighter, NP1 and NP2 respectively, along with a Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at Goa, to simulate carrier take off and arrested landing. A complete airframe called Structural Test Specimen required for structural testing is also being and tested as part of the Programme. Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Bangalore has been responsible for the design, development, and building of the Naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft with HAL being its Principal Partner.

Technical Features of the Aircraft

Ø The LCA will operate from an Aircraft Carrier with a concept of Ski-jump Take off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR). Aircraft gets airborne over a ski jump in about 200 m and lands 90 m using an arrester hook engaging an arrester wire on the ship.

Ø Derived from the Air Force version it is a longitudinally unstable fly-by-wire aircraft, making it an agile war machine.

Ø Flight Control system is augmented with Leading Edge Vortex Controller (LEVCON) aiding reduction in approach speed for Carrier Landing

Ø Auto throttle function reduces pilot load by maintaining constant angle of attack during the critical phase of a flare-less carrier landing

Ø Fuel Dump System enables safe landing by reducing weight in event of an emergency landing immediately after launch from Carrier

Role of the Aircraft
Ø Air to Air
Ø Air to Sea
Ø Air to Ground

Ø Span :8.2 m
Ø Length : 13.2 m
Ø Height : 4.52m


  1. Appearance of a war machine in new role.

    Welcome and congratulations to all concerned and not so concerned.

  2. Hi Ajai, about the LEVCON... is that considered a major structural or control change for the LCA and does that mean that the NLCA needs to be qualified all over from scratch? Also, does the FBW need to be re-qualified with the LEVCON? New lessons to be learned?

  3. @ajai sir

    I have 2 queeries

    Q1. Just heard the defense ministry has approved building two more prototypes under LCA mark-1 for IOC and two more aircraft under LCA mark-2 for FOC by 2014. Any specific reasons why???

    Q2. Air intake nozzle of IAF LCA and Naval LCA look similar. Why?

    My say is air intake nozzle should have been much bigger in Naval LCA considering the Naval LCA will operate in STOBAR configuration that require huge power to start.

  4. Thanks but what is the max AOA with LEVCONs?

  5. wow...what a beuty.. thans ajai sir for the photos.

  6. Hello Ajay,
    I am very new to aviation, but just a question ( please ignore my unawareness )
    I saw some videos of F 16 on youtube. It performs good aerobatics. Why LCA is not able to do that. Only thing I have seen by LCA is just inverted fly. One of the reason is powerplant 404. And what other things limits it ?
    Or am I missing something ?
    Also will LCA MK2 will be able to perform more maneuvers with 414/EJ 2000 Engine ?

  7. Ajai,
    LOVE the caption on the third pic. I see you still have your sense of humour. LMAO!

  8. Simranjit SIngh7 July 2010 at 13:17

    Ajai Sir,

    There is one mistake I would like to point out.....
    The caption of the third pic says "Rocky Balboa atop the Naval LCA"
    I hope that was an unintentional mistake....Please change that...


  9. NLCA is waste of resources. Aircraft carriers are for power projection. where does a light aircraft based on a carrier fit in the plan?

  10. Point @ 2

    What does longitudinally unstable - making an agile war machine mean.

  11. @anon@6:15,
    No it is not a waste. It will be cheapest way to simultaneously train the naval pilots for their carrier ops AND AT THE SAME TIME allow ADA to learn how to navalize a fighter and get feedback which in turn will help in design of Naval-AMCA.

    BTW you cannot project force with imported fighters anyway especially those ones whose remote control and key to useful operation lies in supplier's hands.


  13. Congrats to all our scientist who had made this happen and a special thanks to our Rocky Balboa who had made decision to go forward with the projects despite negative comments from all over!!

  14. Sir,
    Waiting for some good pictures from your HAL visit

  15. anon @15:35

    I'm for indigenous capability, but i'm afraid LCA which should be the top most priority, may be sucked out of resources (top scientists/technicians) to fund NLCA.

    The navy can use the Mig-29s to train their pilots, for the time being.


  17. I've been apprehensive of the NLCA program from the start and belive it to be an unnecessary waste of resources.

    I can see the argument for supporting the indigenous aircraft industry, but the LCA was designed as a cheap, lightweight air defence fighter to replace the IAF's MiG-21s and MiG-23s. It has a short range and low payload capacity that make it inherently unsuitable for carrier operations, especially with the further limitations of short take-offs on the Indian Navy's carriers.

    In aircraft carriers due to lack of space for aircraft and suport/ maintenance infrastructure only one fighter type is normally used(the US Navy is the sole exception). The Indian Navy already has 45 MiG-29Ks for the Vikramaditya and the first IAC. If it needed a second fighter type it should have gone for a fifth-generation stealth fighter like the F-35B to be inducted on the third carrier from 2020 onwards.

  18. N-Tejas may not be superior to MiG-29Ks, but it is certainly a great and modernized leap over the sea-hawks and sea-harriers.

    Any decision regarding the purchase of F-35B shall be made only after 2015-2020 depending upon the scenario existing then.

  19. No nation can afford/should spend on as many F35s as required to fill up the decks of IACs. And we do not want that many Mig29Ks either given their issues.

    IAF has not ordered more of LCA MK1s and MK2 will not be ready anyways without the engine. So n-lca is not taking away much but rather making the most of what we already have.

  20. How long will it take for LCA Mk2 changes to be refit back into NLCA? The refit work is not free. Scientists from a already limited pool have to be diverted to make this happen.

    We may be able to estimate how much resources NLCA is taking away based on when (how many years past 2013) it will be ready for carrier-type based testing.


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