In the next decade, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to sign a contract for 114 fighter aircraft to meet its urgent requirement as well as induct 83 indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Mark-1A and Mark-2 into service. The final contract for 83 indigenous LCA is expected to be inked with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. before the FY closes. Out of the 83 LCAs, ten will be twin-seater version and will be used for training purpose by the IAF.
The Made in India single-engine aircraft which has been designed and being manufactured at HAL is expected to replace the MiG-21 Bison aircraft which is in the process of being phased out from service. The aircraft which is four and a half-generation has the capacity to be upgraded later and comes with mid-air refuelling, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, electronic warfare suites, and is equipped with different types of bombs, missiles and weapons.
The Indian made LCA will be part of the No 45 Squadron 'Flying Daggers’ based at Tamil Nadu’s Sulur Air Force Station, before moving out to another location.
"Efforts are on to deliver six LCAs in the Final Operational Configuration (FOC) by March 2020. The team from IAF is coordinating with the HAL for the fast delivery of the last four aircraft in the Initial Operational Configuration (IOC)," said a senior officer who wished to remain anonymous.
The LCA team at HAL is working to address some concerns related to the production and software of the FOC variant which needs to be resolved. "Once that is completed then by end of the FY four FOC variant will be delivered to IAF," sources added.
To meet the timelines of the end-user-IAF, the state-owned HAL has plans to have another assembly line in a joint venture with a private company is setting up another assembly line. It is expected that through such collaboration the production of the LCA will go up from the present numbers of 8 to 16.
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The IAF which is struggling with the dwindling number of fighter squadrons are focusing on the development of the LCA Mark-2 and the AMCA. Officers who wished to remain anonymous have said that the LCA Mark-2 will come in the next decade between 2022-23.
As has been reported earlier Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria is pushing for AMCA which is being designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) with the IAF's support. To be initially powered by two GE-414 engines, the first flight of the AMCA is expected to take place by 2032.
According to the HAL executives, major assembly modules have been outsourced several private companies including VEM Technologies, Hyderabad (Center Fuselage), L&T, Coimbatore (Wings), DTL, Bengaluru (Front fuselage), Alphatocol, Bengaluru (Rear Fuselage), are working hard to ensure timely delivery to the customer.