Officials reported that state-run planemaker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) began critical ground tests on the LCA Mk-1 (light combat aircraft) on Wednesday to check the structural integrity of the aircraft’s airframe and other components in order to meet stipulated airworthiness criteria.
At the Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) in Bengaluru, the main airframe fatigue test (MAFT) of the LCA Mk-1 commenced. The Indian Air Force has received the LCA MK-1. Officials said it’s not uncommon for a fighter plane’s weariness to be assessed after it’s been deployed.
“Despite the obstacles caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, HAL was able to start the MAFT on time,” said Arup Chatterjee, HAL’s director of engineering and research and development. The arduous testing will last for eight to nine years, and the successful completion of MAFT will qualify the LCA (air force) Mk-1 airframe for the rest of its service life, according to officials.
“According to military airworthiness criteria, MAFT must demonstrate the airframe’s potential to sustain four times its service life,” HAL explained.
According to Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd), director-general of the Centre for Air Power Studies, MAFT is a crucial activity for establishing the structural health of the airframe or components, as well as defining the platform’s last safe operating life.
Designers from HAL and scientists from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) collaborated on the MAFT’s test plan and timetable, which was developed in collaboration with the Regional Centre for Military Airworthiness under the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC).
CEMILAC is a regulatory organization under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) that certifies military aircraft, helicopters, aero-engines, and air-launched weapons for airworthiness.
Last year, the defence government granted HAL a contract worth Rs 48,000 crore for 83 LCA Mk-1A aircraft (a more sophisticated version of the LCA Mk-1) for the Indian Air Force. The Mk-1A will be built on the same airframe as the Mk-1.
The first Mk-1A aircraft will be delivered to the air force in March 2024, with the remainder arriving in 2029.
The 83 Mk-1A jets brought the total number of LCA types ordered to 123. The IAF bought 40 LCAs in two configurations: initial operational clearance and advanced final operational clearance. The LCA Mk-1A will include a number of enhancements over the FOC model, making it the most advanced LCA variant to date.
Digital radar warning receivers, external self-protection jammer pods, superior radar, upgraded beyond-visual-range missiles, and greatly increased maintainability will be included in the Mk-1A model. The indigenous component of the fighter is estimated to be around 60%, compared to 50% in earlier models.