The indigenously designed and built Light Combat Aircraft designed for the Navy (LCA-Navy) has been rejected by the Indian Navy, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba said. The fighter built in India doesn't meet requirement of the Navy, he said.
The Navy will now look at global manufacturers and its options are limited to USA, France, Russia and Sweden for a fighter that can join the fleet in the next six years.
The LCA–Navy fighter is under-powered, the Admiral said. Besides, it has a weak undercarriage - crucial for deck landings - and also hasn't been able to successfully carry out an arrested landing. In its current form the LCA-Navy can fly out of an aircraft carrier but cannot carry any weapons, sources said.
Ironically, in the 1990s it was the Navy that had saved the Light Combat Programme by agreeing to fund the programme when LCA faced a questionable future after failing repeatedly to deliver.
India uses Russian Made MiG-29K fighters that fly out of INS Vikramditya – the Russian Made refurbished aircraft carrier. The second aircraft carrier – INS Vikrant – being built in India is likely to join the fleet by 2018. The MiG-29K will also be stationed on INS Vikrant.
The Naval version of the LCA was commissioned in 2003 and nearly Rs 2000 crore have been spent to develop the fighter aircraft since. The LCA -Navy supposed to fly out of aircraft carrier by 2010. The deadline for completion of the fighter programme was extended to 2018.
The Navy will continue to support the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with budgetary support, the Admiral Lanba said.
But instead of single engine fighter, the Navy has pinned its hopes on twin engine Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project. The two prototypes of the singe engine LCA- Navy delivered will be a "technology demonstrator" only and Navy hopes that experience gained will come in handy when developing the Naval version of AMCA.
"The twin engine fighter will require time, but we are hopefully it will prove to be good fighter in the long run," a senior Navy officer associated with the programme told Huffington Post.
The Indian Air Force (IAF), on the other hand, has raised its first squadron of the Light Combat Aircraft – Tejas – the land based version of the fighter built and designed in India – with just two fighters. The IAF has agreed to induct 120 Tejas fighters to replace its aging MiG-21 fighters.