India’s most ambitious military program to build an indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) reached a major milestone on 23rd April; Friday when it first test flew a radar onboard. The LSP-3 model of the aircraft carried a radar inside its nose for the first time. This comes more than 9 years after it first took to skies. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) described the radar as Multi-mode radar.

Defence Aviation has learnt that the radar was a Hybrid version of Israel’s Elta EL/M-2032 which is currently in service with Indian Navy on its Sea Harrier fleet. The radar is mechanically steered and most components are of Indian origin. The processor of the radar is of Israeli origin similar to that found on the EL/M-2032. There was some confusion regarding the type of radar but it has now been confirmed that it is Doppler pulse radar.
The achievement is significant as this bring the LCA-Tejas closer to receiving the Initial Operation Clearance (IOC). All the necessary tests to receive the IOC are done and now only tests related to the radar remain. It’s expected that these will be completed in 6 months and after that the LCA will enter service with the Indian Air Force (IAF) which has ordered 40 units of LCA’s in IOC configuration. The first aircraft is expected to enter service during the second quarter of 2011.

Meanwhile the LSP-4 is undergoing ground trails and will start flying in a month followed by LSP-5 which should start flying a week later. The recent test flight also had a new air data processor, Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and a communication and navigation system. The flight lasted for some 52 minutes of which the LSP-3 cruised at Mach 0.8 for some 40 minutes.

The Hybrid MMR won’t be seen on the future versions of the aircraft apart from the first 40 as the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) is working on a much advance Active Electronically Scanner Array radar (AESA) which be much superior to the Hybrid MMR. The new AESA radar is necessary for the Tejas to receive the Final operations clearance (FOC).

Author: Pratik Sawerdekar

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