Wednesday, February 11, 2015

PART 3: The Official LCA Navy Mk.2 Wishlist

The Indian Navy funds 40% of the LCA-N fighter programme, and intends to purchase at least 46 LCA Navy Mk.2s, the more powerful and capable proposition based on the current Mk.1 platforms in flight test. Much more is known now about what the Mk.2 will really involve. But first a short dash back 12 years.

The LCA Navy programme was sanctioned in 2003. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which had been entrusted with converting the standard air force variant, imagined it would take six-seven years to convert the platform into a naval prototype. Amazingly, the team at the time officially noted that the changes to the aircraft would be restricted to 15%. As we now know, things turned out quite differently.

A Team LCA-N official explains, "The major constraint of design space due to the existing LCA AF platform resulted in a sub-optimal design and  compromises leading to the LCA Navy Mk-1 Variant being heavier than anticipated."

Six years into the project, it was officially noted by the ADA after months of discussions with the Indian Navy, that the LCA Navy Mk.1 wouldn't meet all the customer's capability requirements. These 'shortfalls' were put down to the platform's 'sub-optimal design'. It became imperative that a significantly more powerful and capable Mk.2 of the LCA Navy would be the platform that the Indian Navy would spend its real procurement rupees on.

In 2011, the ADA displayed models of its proposed Mk.2 for the IAF and Indian Navy. Apart from a brief wishlist of performance enhancements, not very much was clear. And to be fair, the team itself was awaiting greater clarity at the time.

Officially, according to Team LCA-N, "This programme (the LCA Navy Mk.2) is envisaged to minimize the constraints of LCA Navy Mk-1 and would have significant changes in design to improve aerodynamics, landing gear & arrester hook optimization, structural design optimization, updated sensors, avionics and flight control system. The landing gear mass of the LCA-Navy Mk.2 aircraft is likely to be reduced by 200-250 kg, albeit being capable of a higher take-off mass."

INTERFACE OF THE UTTAM RADAR & LCA Mk,2
Mk.1 prototypes NP1 and NP2 are now firmly in flight test. Apart from the number of seats in their cockpits, there are other differences: the NP2 naval fighter prototype flies with a modified Israeli Elta EL/M-2032 multimode radar (MMR). Sources add, "In terms of aircraft performance the two Mk.1 prototypes are similar. In that sense, both the prototypes will contribute equally for the carrier compatibility tests from the SBTF. The focus on sensor and weapon capability demonstration will be on NP2."

The Mk.2 aims to sport the in-development L-273/Uttam (the project name, incidentally, revealed first on Livefist) active array fire control radar being put together by the DRDO's Electronics & Radar Development Establishment (LRDE). According to official literature, the radar, intended to also be retrofitted on the Mk.1 aircraft that enter service, modes include air-to-air multi-target detection and tracking, multi target air-to-air combat mode, high resolution raid assessment, high Resolution air-to-ground mapping (SAR mode), air to ground ranging, real beam mapping, doppler beam sharpening, ground moving target indication and tracking and terrain avoidance. In air-to-sea mode, sea search and multi target tracking, range signature and inverse synthetic aperture radar will apply. But that's just the radar.

The the No.5 prototype NP5 will be a Mk.1 twin-seat trainer prototype, the construction of which has already begin at HAL. The NP5 was proposed to save time and as a risk mitigation exercise using existing resources and funds.

The MoD is now all set to clear the third and fourth prototypes, NP3 & NP4, both to be single-seat fighter prototypes of the LCA Navy Mk.2, incorporating all airframe and platform changes, including aft fuselage changes to house the new, larger and more powerful General Electric F414-GE-INS6 turbofan engine. Team LCA-N sources confirm that there will be changes in most sections of the airframe.

(Series concluded)

18 comments :

Skyhigh Saikanomie said...

Great series of articles. keep it up.

Anonymous said...

When LCA Mk II would get the FOC ? 2025?

Tako Nada said...

Good piece if work, need to know more about midget submarines, Dhruv-WSI and LCH update.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shiv Any idea on LCA MK2 timelines? Also which one would be developed first Naval or Air force one? When are the new engines are expected to be available.

Cheers

Dalip Bhati said...

Could you please clarify what is the small bump that has come up in LCA in recent pictures

Anonymous said...

Elta EL/M-2032 and not EL/M-2023

Anonymous said...

is it just me or the title was a total click bait

Ved said...

Elta 2032 was what you meant Shiv.

zubin said...

Finally some great articles of much interest. Well done Shiv. Do we take it that the LCA Navy Mk 2 will beat the AF Mk 2 in time lines!!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't know a project started in 1980's is still not with user (more than 3 decades)

and still main component Engine is not built by India

and Logic given see how much time west took !! (so we can also take 5 decades)

but they do not had facility of importing 60 percent item instead they had to come up with each & every component ......... also they can not afford 8000 scientist like DRDO does ........

DEVINDRA SETHI said...

WELL DONE Shiv ! India's Fighting Falcon at sea is coming true and fast. We'll written. The Gripen team is watching in awe as they have nothing in comparison , Sea Gripen is a paper plane.

SpazSinbad said...

Many thanks for these very informative LCA Navy articles and may your Navy have good luck with testing and future flight operations.

SpazSinbad said...

Many thanks for these LCA Navy very informative articles and may your Navy have good fortune with testing and future flight operations on your carriers.

Balaji said...

@Anonymous at 4.44 AM
Naval LCA Programme was sanctioned in 2003 only. Maiden flight of first prototype was in 2012, 9 years for a first attempt at design, development and build of a carrier borne fighter aircraft.
These time frames are contemporary even amongst established aircraft houses.

Raahul Kumar said...

Excited to read about the AESA Uttam radar, glad to see that desi avionics have made a great leap.

Gilberto Rezende-Rio Grande/RS said...

Shiv I have a big interest in LCA Navy MKII Project because here in Brasil the winner of our F-X2 contest the Gripen E/F uses the same engine of the Tejas MK II, the GE F414.

The F-X2 contest was for BRAF but our Defense Ministry had already decide that our country will pay for the development of the Sea Gripen variant for BR Navy and the fast kick-start of the program depends of a viability study of SAAB about the operation of Sea Gripen in our current Carrier São Paulo.
But Brazil wants to buy only 36 fighters and make no effort to the engine technology.
You guys in India have already access to the AL-31 Russian technology for many years and this knowledge was the base of Kaveri project. I Think...

I Know the Kaveri project is now put a side but i have a few questions...

It don't meet the desired standards to the Tejas project but it has 81 KN of Thrust ! Is more than the M88 of Snecma !

In 5/6 years India will have Knowledge on 3 different engines:
AL-31 Saturn Russian
M88 Snecma French
F414 GE American

With all This it seens to me IMPOSSIBLE that even with the same troubles that the Kaveri project had you can not do it right if you try again our indegionous engine !!!
And one detail, someone could correct me
if my distant perspective is not right...
Basically the Kaveri project dint maked because the quality and weight of the parts, don't meet the standards and made the final prototype less efficient.

The major problem in my opinion was that GRTE-DRDO was the only responsible entity of the project.

I don't quite understand why India did not put in this project the Tata company responsible for the metallurgic and the machining of the metallic parts.

As Modi gov is more driven to the private sector a Kaveri II project (for AMCA) has absolute need of a foreigner partner (Snecma ?) But the India's state partner (HAL or DRDO) MUST have a Private Indian Partner on Tata Group to absorb the advance metallurgic and machining technology the French partner will provide, to not fall in the same mistake that killed the original Kaveri project.
Is this make sense for you Shiv or I am fully mistaken ?

In one situation or other I have a Healthily envy of India's ambition of make it's own engines...


Anonymous said...

In stead why not privatize HAL and ADA, get rid of the incompetent workforce and replace them with young talent.

Samuel Diaw said...

NLCA MK2 has only 5 hardpoints?? 2 on each wing and one underbelly! Well, at least Whitcomb's area rule has been addressed properly so aircraft should go supersonic at sea-level and have much better roll rates, STR-ITR than IAF's MK2 I feel..