Bangalore: India's indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft Tejas programme will meet its December 2010 force induction deadline, albeit with imported engines. The Kaveri fighter engine programme, which by now has met most of its current user requirements, now moves to a different sphere by being upgraded to meet future fighter aircraft programme requirements, specifically the Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA).
At an Aero India press conference on Tuesday, M Natarajan, DRDO chief and scientific adviser to the defence minister, stated his organisation's determination to ensure that the LCA was inducted in IAF squadron service in its projected time schedule.
According to DRDO officials at the press conference, while the first two squadrons of the IAF equipped with the LCA would fly with GE 404 engines subsequent inductions would be powered by an engine to be procured through an international tender or as part of a JV with a foreign vendor.
Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) director, Dr PS Subramanyam said, "I am confident that DRDO will keep to the December 2010 initial operational clearance (IOC) plan. We have started weapons testing on the LCA, and soon the aircraft will fly with the hi-tech MMR radar (multi-mode radar)."
"We can do a few things with the Kaveri engine and fly the LCA no doubt. But that's not the point. There are new specifications and it will take time to meet those. Most of the work with existing specifications is over, but we're working on more complex aspects.
"Meanwhile, we understand the IAF has tight induction bands and we will get the LCA into those bands. The first two squadrons will fly on GE engines and the next four will fly on any international engine that qualifies our new request for proposals.
"The Kaveri engine will take another five years given the new specifications. Engine development is not the easiest of things and no one is going to share technology on the platter. Meanwhile we will keep to IAF requirements," Subramanyam explained.