Bengaluru: Engineers and technicians at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s (HAL) LCA-Tejas Division have begun the extremely complex integration of the aerial refueling probe on to the Tejas fighter.
During a visit to the HAL facilities, Mathrubhumi witnessed the fitment tests on the Limited Series Production-8 (LSP-8) variant of Tejas. The air-to-air probe, supplied by UK-based Cobham, is being fixed in front of the canopy and on the right side of the aircraft.
Similar to Mirage, Tejas too will have a fixed aerial refueling probe. “The modification of LSP-8 is under progress. The structural modification for the attachment and load is under way. We also have to undertake fuel system and software modifications,” says V Sridharan, General Manager, LCA.
The pressure refueling process on LSP-8 and SP-1 have already been demonstrated. Last year, the naval LCA (NP2) underwent ‘hot refueling’ at HAL facilities. Both were mandatory tests ahead of fixing the fuel probe.
“Once the probe is fixed and structural integration is done, then we will have the ground tests, which will be followed by flight trials. The efficiency of the Flight Control System will also be tested,” says Sridharan.
According to him, HAL has the expertise in fixing mid-air fuel probes on Jaguar trainers. The work share for this critical integration work is being split between Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC), Tata Advanced System Laboratories (TASL) and LCA Tejas Division.
“TASL is been entrusted with tool design and tooling supply, ADA is the programme agency responsible for production, structural design and software, ARDC has been entrusted with structures and systems, while we (LCA-Teas Division) are the final integration agency,” says Sridharan.
Flight trials to be completed next year
HAL hopes to complete the modifications on Tejas LSP-8 by May this year so that the flight trials could begin in June. As per the current schedule, by March 2017, HAL needs to complete the testing and flight trials ahead of certification.
HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju, who is keeping a close watch on the production schedules, said that the complex integration work is nearing completion. “Once the integration work is done, we will have the engagement checks to ensure that the flow is right. This will be followed by dry and wet runs again to check the flow rate of fuel. Finally, we will take the fighter for the mid-air-refueling trials,” says Raju.
HAL officials say that the carriage trials in June will be immediately followed by dry contact tests. Once Tejas is fitted with the mid-air-refueling probe, it multiplies the aircraft range and radius of action.
Mid-air-refueling probe is one of the key parameters HAL-ADA combine need to fulfil, ahead of the Final Operational Clearance. HAL says from the first Tejas MKI-A aircraft onwards (21st fighter in the series production plans), all platforms will be fitted with the air-to-air refueling probe.
“However, if the IAF wishes, then it could enter into a separate contract with HAL, to retro-fit even the first 20 series production variants with these probes,” says an official.
In a related development, Tejas LSP3 and LSP7 have reached Jamnagar ahead of IAF’s Fire Power Demonstration -- Iron Fist-2016.
(The writer is an author, blogger and seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. His upcoming book ‘Precious Souls’ captures the inspiring lives of special children and their families. He is currently a Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English) Online and tweets @writetake.)