LCA Tejas might have set a new record for fighter development world

Published by Jan Heaney on

LCA Tejas might have set a new record for fighter development world


Air-to-air refueling is one of the most challenging
operations with the centre of gravity of the receiving platform shifting spontaneously
after the fuel flow begins. The LSP-8 piloted by Wg Cdr Siddharth Singh
made the wet contact with an IAF IL-78 tanker for the planned air-to-air refuelling. About 1,900 kg of fuel was transferred during
the in-flight refuelling process at an altitude of 20,000 feet. During the trials, both Tejas and the IL-78
were flying at speeds of 270 knots, approximately 311 miles per hour. The performance of both aircraft was captured
by LCA PV-5, which is a trainer from the flightline. The tanker flew in from Agra while Tejas took
off from the IAF Station, Gwalior. Ahead of the first wet contact today, LSP-8
underwent many trials to gauge various test profiles. The first dry contact was made on September
4 with Group Captain Joshi piloting the LSP-8, followed by another one on September 6. Dry contact was made with the left, right,
and centre stations of the tanker earlier this month. (Three hoses come out of the tanker stations
during the refuelling operations from three different sides. The drogue [shape of a funnel] is extended
from the tanker by each hose and later it is locked on to the probe of plane set to
receive the fuel). �The wake of the tanker�s engine is different
for all stations and we made contact with all the three smoothly. As the aircraft gets fuelled, the centre of
gravity goes up. However, the handling qualities of Tejas has
been very good and all systems performed in a robust manner,� the official said. Work on the fuel system was undertaken by
HAL and that of the refueling probe by ADA. HAL said the performance of the fuel and flight
controls systems during the trial was in-line with the design requirements and matched the
results of ground tests of air-to-air refuelling system. �The results are due to the extreme work
we have done on the simulation front. The specially modified control laws (CLAW)
tuned in perfectly during the air-to-air mission today,� an official said. Interestingly, Tejas might have set a new
record for fighter development world over by making a wet contact during the initial
week of a trial itself. �If you look at any fighter programme world
over, normally, it will take a minimum of six months to achieve a perfect shot. To get it right at the first attempt itself
is a phenomenal achievement,� adds the official. Tejas carries fuel on both wings (700 litres
each), fuselage (850 litres) and in two drop tanks (1,200 litres each).�It�s going
to be a different set of readings all the time and we want to map the new set of pilot
experiences emerging out of in-flight fuelling trials. There will be more trials till the end of
the week. Hopefully, we should be done unless the IAF
wants new set of points proven,� says the official. Few months ago, HAL had successfully carried
out a hot re-fuelling procedure on the LCA. Hot refueling is a single point pressure refueling
of the aircraft, by which a fighter aircraft is refueled (between sorties) while its engine
is in operation, thereby reducing both the refueling time by half and turn-around time
significantly. Also, CSIR-CSIO laboratory has developed drogue
illumination system for LCA Tejas, making India third in the world after the US and
France to have this technology. This will enable air to-air refuelling, which
is not possible during night/cloudy skies for fighter aircraft. The system is expected to be ready by year-end. The indigenous lighting system will be one
fifth of the cost available with offshore vendors and have greater illumination even
than Rafael. “A pilot cannot land during a military operation
and therefore lighting system is significant,� said Harry Garg, a scientist at the CSIO associated
with the project. The Rs 2.51 crore project is funded by ADA. The illumination system is fitted outside
the cockpit. Presently, the illumination system is undergoing
rigorous certification tests by the �Regional Centre for Military Airworthiness�, an agency
under the IAF. None of the fighter aircraft in our country
has illumination system for night and the capability of hot refueling. Meanwhile CSIR-NAL has received an order of
more than Rs 100 crore for delivering critical composite air-frame components to HAL for
the FOC standard LCA. The usage of composites has led to an overall
weight reduction of about 20% in the air-frame. Moreover, the autoclaves necessary for processing
composite materials were also developed indigenously by CSIR-NAL. ACM Dhanoa, CAS, Indian Air force had said
that the performance of the Tejas in air-to-ground weapon delivery was observed to be exceptional
during Ex-Gaganshakti. He also said with active support of HAL the
aircraft was found to be highly reliable during conduct of surge ops. For air defence role, the aircraft has good
AI radar capability and integration of BVR missile is in the final stage. The Air-to-Air refuelling capability for LCA
is a �force multiplier� for the IAF, giving the aircraft the potential to stay airborne
for much longer periods of time. The enhanced range and endurance in air is
expected to provide IAF a host of options in exploiting the operational potential of
the LCA as well as to participate in international exercises without having to stage through
several locations enroute. All the fighters and trainers post-FOC (Tejas
Mk-1A) will be fitted with the probe, giving an edge to the platform during extended missions.


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