The first prototype of the Light Combat Aircraft Navy (NP-1) finally took to the skies on Friday.
The maiden flight of the NP-1, which has been facing consistent delays for over a year, took place when the aircraft piloted by Commodore KM Maolankar, Chief Test Pilot and Wg Cdr M Prabhu, Flight Test Engineer of the National Flight Test Centre took off from the HAL airport at 12.10 am.
The flight, which lasted for about 21 minutes within the designated flight envelope, carried out the planned tests successfully.
The test flight was carried out with landing gear extended as a routine practice during the maiden flight, and was accompanied by a chase aircraft, a Tejas and Hawk AJT was on standby during the flight.
Scientific advisor to the defence minister, VK Saraswat, who witnessed the flight said that the first flight of the NP-1 has brought pride to India and that the country has joined another elite club of countries capable of designing, developing, manufacturing and testing four plus generation Carrier Borne Fly-by-Wire Ski Take Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) aircraft.
The LCA Navy is the country’s first indigenous effort to build a carrier borne Naval Fighter aircraft. The aircraft is the second STOBAR aircraft in the world after the Russian deck-based aircraft. However, the LCA Navy is only carrier borne fighter aircraft in the light category.
Sharing his experience Maolankar said that being the first flight the mandate was to take-off and land safely.
He added that the aircraft flew about 30 km from the base from where it got airborne, reached an elevation of 10,000 feet above sea level and clocked a speed of about 450 km per hour. It also reached an angle of attack to 16 degrees.
The LCA Navy programme commenced in 2003 and the development plan of the Naval version envisages building of two prototypes, a two-seat trainer (NP-1) and a single-seat fighter (NP-2), as technology demonstrators to carry out carrier suitability certification and weapons integration.
Compared to its Air Force counterpart the LCA is different as it has a new stronger and longer landing gear, arrester hook for ship deck landing, front fuselage drooped for better over the nose vision to facilitate ship landing, an additional control surface to reduce ship landing speed and consequential changes in various systems.
The NP1 aircraft would be flying with the GE-F404-IN20 engine.
Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Satish Soni who was present on the occasion said that the next target would be to attain the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) by 2014.