Avinash Chander, scientific adviser to the defence minister and director general Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), told India Strategic magazine (www.indiastrategic.in) that the LCA-Navy had already done more than 25 test flights from a runway. As these were successful and met the designated parameters, the aircraft will now be deployed at a naval base in Goa to commence ramp flights, probably after the monsoon.
Goa, on the Arabian seafront, has a major naval air station, INS Hansa, where the MiG- 29Ks for Indian aircraft carriers are also located.
The station has a 14-degree ramp along with necessary testing sensors and paraphernalia to monitor the flights and was specifically built as part of the indigenous LCA-Navy development programme. But as it is a national naval asset, it is shared by the MiG-29Ks for training pilots and flight tests. Both the aircraft need the same degree in the ramp, matching the one on INS Vikramaditya, acquired from Russia, and INS Vikrant, now being built at the Kochi shipyard.
Chander said that the flight tests are being conducted with LCA Mark-I to prove certain technologies and to familiarise the naval pilots with them. One aircraft is operational, another is on the anvil and a third will son be available to complete the trials. After that, for full weaponised operations aboard carriers, will come the LCA Mark-II powered by GE 414 engines, according to India Strategic.
The naval variant, being tested from the HAL airport in Bangalore, has a bigger undercarriage that Hindustan Aeronautics has built to facilitate deck landings. The development programme is coordinated by a one-star naval pilot.