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By Bulbul Singh

27 Oct 08. India’s controversial homegrown Light Combat Aircraft(LCA), which is behind scheduled by over a decade, has been given new impetus with the installation of an Israeli radar which will take LCA
into the weaponisation stage. Sources say the ELTA-made
Multimode Radar (MMR) arrived last week.

India ordered the Israeli radar last year, after the home-grown effort to make the MMR failed three years ago delaying the LCA program by as many years.

An official of the Indian defence ministry said,”The Israeli radar will only be an interim option. The homegrown MMR radar is as good as abandoned and be replaced by the ELTA radar which will be manufactured in collaboration with Indian entities.”

The arrival of the Israeli radar has given expectaions by Indian
scientists for an early LCA induction date. The Indian
Defence Minister, A K Antony announced on October 25th that LCA
would be ready for induction into the Indian Air Force by 2011
after the Final Operational Clearance in 2010. As such the
LCA would be a reality after 26 years added Antony.

In the LCA the MMR’s primary role will be to detect and locate
targets, process the information, lock on the target and pass this
input to the mission computer. From the mission computer this
information will be utilized by the pilot as he contemplates weapon
release activity. The MMR will also create ground and contour maps
when selected.

A scientist of Aeronautical Development Agency said that the
MMR is an X-band, pulse Doppler radar with air-to-air, air-to-ground
and air-to-sea modes weighing less than five kilograms. It’s role is to process the radar receiver output, detect and locate targets, create ground map, and provide contour map when selected.

“The weaponisation of LCA will commence once the Elta MMR is
mounted.” A senior official said, adding that the LCA will now test critical weapons.

A prototype of the LCA last year ired a fire and forget R73 missile after reaching a height of 6.5 kilometers.

The homemade MMR was being developed by HAL and Electronics
and Radar Development Laboratory (Bangalore) along with coordination
from the Centre for Airborne Studies (CABS).

Along with the weaponisation stage, the LCA also enters the
Flight Certification Stage which is also facing rough weather
as the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency, (ADA)
which is developing the LCA has not been able to find an
international partner so far. In response to a global bid EADS, SAAB of Sweden, Dassault of France, Boeing and Lockheed Martin of United States and MiG Corporation of Russia have filed their bids.

The Scope of Work includes Flight Envelope Expansion, High Angle
of Attack (AOA) flight Testing and Aero-data validation & upgrade
or aero database; External Stores Carriage and Release and Flight
Tests, with emphasis on stores separation modeling and testing;
Wake modeling and Wake penetration Flight Tests; Refinements to
existing real-time simulation models/stools.

The Consultancy is to hasten up the flight testing towards Initial
Operational Clearance (IOC)and Final Operational Clearance (FOC). The LCA has so far carried out over 700 flights.

Even the home-grown engine for LCA, Kaveri, is close to
abandonment and the Bangalore-based Gas Turbine Research
Establishment (GTRE) is also on the look out for an
international partner to complete the Kaveri. Initially, 20 LCAs will be fitted with GE-404 engines.

Earlier this year, the Indian Air Force asked for an upgrade of the GE-404 engine, to give the LCA more thrust.

Giving clarification, Antony said, “There is no need for any debate on the engines for the LCA as the present engine (GE-404) is doing just fine. But, in future, the capabilities of the engine will be upgraded as and when better options come through”.

Safran of France is the front-runner in the race f

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