India's first indigenous Naval Light Combat Aircraft, touted as the only carrier-borne warplane in the light category in the world, rolled out in Bangalore on Monday.
Defence Minister AK Antony described as "a defining and a memorable moment" the roll-out of the two-seater LCA (Navy) NP1 whose first test-flight is expected by this year-end.
The naval version of IAF's LCA assembled at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) facility in Bangalore is now ready to undergo systems integration tests, leading to ground runs, taxi trials and flights, officials said.
Once the ground based tests are completed it is expected to make its maiden flight by the end of this year.
The aircraft, with state of the art technologies and punch, is designed to operate from the future indigenous aircraft carriers the Navy plans to acquire. It is the first indigenous effort to build a complete air element for the Navy.
It will be operating with a wide variety of operational weapons and equipment like the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile, Anti-ship Missiles, Conventional bombs, Air Defence guns, and drop tanks.
"It is a defining and a memorable moment as it will give boost to indigenisation," Antony said at the event attended by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma, Secretary (Defence Production) and top officials of HAL and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The warplane has been developed under the prestigious Naval Programme of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).
Antony utilised the occasion to urge all the partners including ADA, HAL, DRDO and CSIR to "not only maintain the tempo but to take it to the feverish pitch and ensure the first flight of NP1 in the next three to four months".
The development of a naval aircraft is a challenging task and testing it is an even more complex operation, he said.
"Towards this end a shore based test facility (SBTF) is under construction at the naval air station in Goa, which will also have facility for a sky jump for take off arresting gear like in a ship," the Defence Minister said.
Noting that the specialised equipment for SBTF would be supplied by Russia, Antony said, "I understand that the take off area of landing will be ready soon. This facility can be used as a training centre for both pilots and maintenance and makes it a precious national asset."
The development of LCA (Navy) NP1 and its fighter counterpart (NP2) is aimed at providing a formidable platform with a higher thrust engine and an optimised mass for suitable replacement to the ageing Sea Harriers at a later date.
The aircraft will fly with US-made GE-F-404-IN20 engine and is specifically designed for ski jump take off and arrested landing, with high landing loads compared to its Air Force counterpart.
The formal sanction by the government for the Naval programme was given in the year 2003. The first stage of development includes design and fabrication of one trainer and one fighter--NP1 and NP2 respectively--along with a shore-based test facility (SBTF) in Goa, to simulate carrier take off and arrested landing.