The US Navy could soon be operating HAL Tejas jets if India’s sales pitch goes through. India has offered its Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT), a version of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), to the US Navy, which is scouting for a suitable trainer aircraft.
In response to the US Navy’s request for information (RFI) for its Undergraduate Jet Training System (UJTS), India has sent a detailed project plan which includes advanced avionics that enables the LIFT-LCA to mimic almost all types of fighter jets – from cockpit display to control performances, The Economic Times reported.
The state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has developed the aircraft. The US Navy had begun a global search for a new jet trainer earlier this year to replace its Boeing T-45 Goshawk fleet.
According to the RFI, the service is looking for a non-developmental, land-based jet trainer suitable for field carrier landing practice and nuclear aircraft carrier touch-and-go landings. The aircraft should be available by 2028 or sooner, the RFI said.
Earlier, defense news platforms had speculated Boeing-Saab T-7A, Lockheed Martin’s T-50A and Leonardo’s T-100 as likely competitors for the US Navy’s next-generation trainer program.
However, HAL chairperson R Madhvan has told ET that the same platform can be used to mimic any other platform. He said they just need to put in the flying characteristics and change things to the selected aircraft.
Further giving an example, he said if they need Rafale characteristics in the aircraft, the pilot will feel as if he is flying a Rafale.
A Modern Jet Trainer
LCA-LIFT was built on the LCA Tejas’ platform. It is a fighter trainer which will help the pilots in flying modern aircraft like Rafale and SU-30 MKI.
While the US is still evaluating its decision, India’s offer is based on LCA Mk1A, which is on order by the Indian Air Force. The LCA MK 1A has more capabilities than the earlier version of Tejas in terms of operational roles, enhancing the combat ability through the incorporation of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, electronic warfare (EW) suite and-beyond-visual range (BVR) missiles.
The Indian Air Force has placed an order for 83 LCA MK1A. But since the US Navy needs the training jet, the news report claims that the aircraft being offered brings in experience gained by HAL from the naval version of the LCA, which has successfully demonstrated operations from an aircraft carrier.
The naval version of the LCA had received a major setback in 2016 when then-Navy Chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba rejected the jet in the form it was in at that time. However, earlier this year, the LCA Tejas successfully took off and landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in the Arabian Sea.
The #LCA Navy taking off from the deck of INS Vikramaditya on Jan12.. The videos made available now. It had successfully landed on Jan 11. The landing on ship deck is complex procedure. @indiannavy @DRDO_India @HALHQBLR @thetribunechd @makeinindia pic.twitter.com/BJ1ClYMzzL
— Ajay Banerjee ਅਜੈ ਬੈਨਰਜੀ (@ajaynewsman) January 15, 2020
A demonstrator will be produced only when the US navy will go ahead with the selection process and shortlist it for the next step. The media report claims that the LCA meets all basic parameters required by the US Navy such as the capability of field carrier landing practice, and carrier-touch-and-go events.
The USN RIF also mentions that aircraft should be capable of integrating advanced technologies, such as precision landing mode, which is used to help land the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet on aircraft carriers. It also wants the trainer to have an automatic ground collision avoidance system.
The US Navy wants to conduct field carrier landing practices at an annual rate of 1,200 per aircraft. It also expects next-generation trainer to fly 400 hours per year and perform carrier touch-and-go landings 45 times per year.