Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tejas Completes Drop Tank Jettison Trials

By Anantha Krishnan M.(AW&ST)
BENGALURU, India       

India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft successfully completed a drop tank trial over the Aeronautical Test Range at Challakere in Chitradurga, near Bengaluru, on Dec. 17.
P.S. Subramanyam, chief of the Aeronautical Development Agency, tells Aviation Week that a 1,200-liter drop tank was jettisoned from a Tejas limited series production (LSP-3) aircraft piloted by Group Capt. Suneet Krishna.
“We flew a Tejas PV-2 as an escort to capture external video images of the drop tank trajectory after release,” Subramanyam says. “Jettisonable drop tanks are critical for a fighter aircraft for getting on to a swift mission mode during emergency situations.”
The theoretical predictions were further verified through “pit drop tests” conducted on a test specimen using a specially designed rig with part of the aircraft system and a high-speed photography system integrated with it. “The test cases covered a number of conditions such as empty, partial and full drop tanks, as well as different Ejector Release Unit settings,” Subramanyam says.
The flight trials were planned by the National Flight Test Center (NFTC) in Bengaluru. “We looked into the safety from all angles. A review was conducted at NFTC to ensure all foreseeable safety issues were taken care of before embarking on this important test,” a NFTC source says.
Indian media are keeping a close watch on the program, which has been hampered by time and cost overruns. With a Dec. 27 deadline looming to complete the certification process, ahead of its scheduled initial operational clearance (IOC), the focus now shifts to New Delhi for a crucial review, scheduled on Dec. 21.
The Indian air force (IAF) chief is expected to make a final decision on IOC at this meeting, which would signal IAF pilots to fly Tejas to check its handling qualities and other advanced features. This also will pave the way for its squadron formation sometime in mid-2011, by the time the remaining platforms (LSP-7 and LSP-8) would have joined the flight line.
Series production (SP) is expected to start next year. “The onus will then shift to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. to stick to the delivery schedules and roll out the first SP block of 20 Tejas,” a source says. “These fighters will get into the first squadron.”
Tejas photo: ADA

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