Source : Indian Defence Analysis
|Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) CGI by Satwik Sadhukhan|
The Air Staff Requirements for the LCA’s Naval version were first formulated in 1985. Naval Headquarters (now IHQ MoD[N]) had requested Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in 1986, to undertake a feasibility study for developing a Naval version of the LCA as a possible replacement for the Sea Harrier aircraft operating from IN aircraft carriers. The feasibility study was undertaken by ADA (based on Air Staff Requirements 1985), in 1989–92, and a Study Report was submitted to the IN. The preliminary design study received approval in 1995; Naval Air Staff Requirements (NASR) specific to deck operations, were formulated in 2003; and the CCS accorded approval for development of the aircraft.
The LCA(N) programme was conceived as a ‘Limited change derivative’ of the Air Force Tejas programme and aimed for a deck-based Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) fighter aircraft. At the time of the approval by CCS in 2003 it was envisaged—due to a perceived 80 per cent commonality with the Tejas programme— that building two LCA(N)-MK1 prototypes, with accumulated flying time of 400 hours within six years, would be adequate.
However, the development of niche technologies required for carrier-based flying delayed the programme considerably adding to both time and cost. In 2009, the CCS split the programme into two Full-Scale Engineering Development (FSED) programmes and extended the project validity to 2014.
LCA(N) Phase 1
Two aircraft, NP1 and NP2 were built in Phase 1, of the LCA(N)-MK1 programme. e two aircraft completed 176:15 hours of flying and undertook a total of eighteen arrested-landings (afloat), twenty-eight arrested landings (ashore) and sixty-three ski-jump take-offs. On 11 January 2020, both aircraft successfully made a maiden arrested landing on INS Vikramaditya. This was followed by a ski jump take-o from INS Vikramaditya the next day. The lessons from the trials of Phase I were assimilated for future phases.
LCA(N) Phase 2
Phase 2 of the LCA(N) programme had already been approved in November 2009. Two additional aircraft (NP3 and NP4) in LCA(N)-MK2 configuration were to be built. The LCA(N)-MK2 was to achieve better power to weight ratio with incorporation of niche technologies to overcome the shortcomings of LCA(N)-MK2. However, the IN put up a proposal to withdraw its commitment from the ongoing LCA(N)-MK2 programme, as capabilities were failing to match operational requirements.
Progression to TEDBF
In October 2016, Hon’ble RM approved the IN’s request to withdraw and directed ADA to progress LCA(N)-MK1 as a Technology Demonstrator, with an aim to utilize it as an intermediate platform in order to develop an indigenous Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF). Hence, a decision was taken to start afresh on the TEDBF, with enhanced performance characteristics.
On 9 September 2019, at a General Body Meeting of the ADA, chaired by the Secretary Defence R&D, ADA proposed to develop the TEDBF by 2028. e IN wanted the TEDBF to be a 5th generation fighter aircraft to replace the MiG-29K by 2032. After discussions with ADA, it was decided that a 4++ generation TEDBF would be developed by 2028 and subsequently the 5th generation aircraft would be developed. The IN wants the first to take place by 2026 so that availability of indigenous fighters as a replacement to MiG 29K is confirmed.
During the Indian Navy Day in December 2022, the Navy Chief has said that the Light Combat Aircraft (naval version) project will significantly help in developing the proposed next generation deck-based fighters. Navy is preparing the draft cabinet note for that and confident that by 2026, navy should have the prototype. The production of the aircraft would start by 2032.
During the defence expo 2022, ADA has reported that the TEDBF program can be executed in 8-years after the funding approval from CCS is given.
ADA is expecting funding clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security by June 2023. Once its approved, it will take another 4-4.5 years for roll out of the first prototype, which means that the first prototype can be expected around 2028 and fighter jet can enter into production by the year 2032.