A newly created division for the light combat aircraft (LCA) and a bid to make 80 per cent of its components locally are among recent moves taken to spur production of the made-in-India fighter plane once it crosses the last milestone for airworthiness, according to its developer and production agencies.
The LCA Division was carved out a few months ago at the manufacturing partner, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. here.
In the last one year, R&D agency Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and HAL met small- and mid-sized component manufacturers several times and encouraged them to take up some more components. They aim to raise the LCA’s indigenous content to 80 per cent in three years, up from the present 50 to 55 per cent. The steps are meant to double the rate of delivering the aircraft to the Air Force.
Chief of Defence Research and Development Organisation Avinash Chander, and HAL and ADA officials met about 50 Indian vendors at one such meeting. HAL Chairman R.K. Tyagi told them that starting 2015–16, “we aim to roll out 16 LCAs every year, [increasing] from the initial target of eight a year”.
Currently, 168 of the 344 LCA components are made in the country.
A key defence scientist involved in the programme said HAL and ADA would help manufacturers to pick up at least 10 more simple components and offer the use of government-owned manufacturing and test facilities.
“We have the capacity in the country and we have started the process [of increasing local manufacture]. This cost would not exceed the cost of imports. What is significant is, in the long run, this expanded vendor base will readily support future programmes such as the fifth generation fighter aircraft and the multi-role transport aircraft [that HAL and Russia are to co-develop], the advanced medium combat aircraft and LCA MkII,” the scientist told Submariners World.
The LCA already has a separate production facility and hangars set up at around Rs. 300 crore.
Under development for 25 years, the LCA will enter production and join the Air Force once it passes the last test for battle-readiness, the final operational clearance (FOC). Defence scientists maintain that the FOC should be possible before 2015 as planned.