Published On: Sat, Feb 11th, 2017

Brief on Aero India International Seminar 2017

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Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in association with the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI) is organizing the eleventh biennial Aero India International Seminar from 12 to 14 February 2017, as a prelude to the eleventh edition of the Aero India Aerospace Exposition.

The theme of this International Seminar “Aerospace: Technology Collaboration and Self Reliance” and covers a wide spectrum of topics in Aerospace and Defence sector.

Technologies and applications related to Aircraft Systems, Unmanned platforms, C4ISR, Avionics, Space and Missile systems, Propulsion, Materials and Manufacturing, emerging technologies and technology collaboration would be discussed in depth by  73 speakers.

About 20 speakers from foreign aerospace and defence research development and industry sector are participating. These include Airbus, CIAM, Eurojet, GE, Honeywell, Opal-RT, Pulse Electronics, Rolls Royce, Siemens, SAAB and UAC. The technical specialists are from USA, Canada, UK, Russia, Germany, Sweden and India. The Indian specialists represent Govt &PSUs and academic institutions like DRDO, ISRO, NAL, HAL, BEL, IAF, Navy, Army, DIAT & IISc.

Several innovative ideas and futuristic visions would be brought out across the 8 distinct sessions during the 3 day event for the benefit of all participants. More than 900 delegates including students and foreign delegates are participating in this event.

Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA)

Bengaluru – 560017

 

Brief on ADA Programmes: Aero India 2017

Background:

       Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under the Ministry of Defence, Govt. of India, is entrusted with the responsibility of Design & Development of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is the Principal Partner, with major support from the Users (IAF & IN), DRDO, CEMILAC, DGAQA, CSIR, Other PSUs, Pvt. Enterprises and Academic Institutions. Named as TEJAS, LCA is the smallest, light-weight, highly agile, supersonic capable, all weather, multi-role, air-superiority fighter aircraft designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat roles.

Challenges in Development:

        Challenges in development of LCA were numerous. An unstable aircraft configuration and the challenges it poses in terms of handling and controllability and at the same time to provide utmost reliability with extremely high agility was one of the fundamental challenges that has been surpassed. State-of-the art composite structure to the extent of about 90% surface area and about 40% by weight is probably one of the highest usages of composites in fighter aircraft in the world. The LCA team embraced this technology challenge and has been extremely successful. Complex accessories viz., Aircraft Mounted Accessories Gear Box (AMAGB) and compact heat exchangers have been successfully developed and integrated on the LCA. The Programme has faced Technology challenges, complexity of systems design with very high safety standards, stress on higher degree of  indigenised components, changes in weapons configuration, changes for avionics system architecture, changes in Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, quantum change in build standard and aircraft fabrication etc., to just name a few.

LCA AF Mk1:

        About over two decades ago (1993) the Tejas Programme was initiated to develop the technologies of a fourth generation fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and demonstrate them on two Technology Demonstrator (TD) aircraft.  There was a gap of two generations in terms of technologies at that time and these technology gaps had to be filled before a prototype could be flown.  The Tejas team consisting of ADA, HAL, DRDO, CSIR, IAF, IN, CEMILAC, DGAQA, PSUs, Private Industries and Academic Institutions took up the challenge and has flown the first Technology Demonstrator encompassing fourth generation technologies on January 4, 2001.  By March 2004, with one more Technology Demonstrator and one Prototype vehicle flying, all the technologies of the fourth generation relevant to the Tejas were demonstrated successfully completing the technology demonstration phase.

        The next phase of the Programme was initiated concurrently in November 2001 with the Government funding provided to ADA for not only building the prototypes for the Fighter and Trainer but also for establishing the Limited Series Production (LSP) line at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), and delivery of eight LSP aircraft. Today the Programme has successfully integrated all the required sensors and weapons, also demonstrated safe and reliable flying within the specified operational flight envelope.  This has been achieved through over 3300 flights using 16 aircraft flown by over 17 test pilots of Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy.  The Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) was completed in Dec 2013. The Indian Air Force has ordered 20 aircraft in this configuration. HAL is the Production agency building these aircraft. The first Tejas squadron (the 45th Squadron) the Flying Dragons has been formed on 01 Jul 2016 by the Indian Air Force and the aircraft are currently being flown and maintained by squadron personnel.

        Balance activities towards Final Operational Clearance (FOC) which will further enhance the operational capability of the aircraft are in progress currently. These include enhancement in the Angle of Attack and ‘g’ load capability, Air to Air Refueling, additional weapons and gun integration. These are in the category of capability enhancers and the IOC configuration aircraft is by itself a potent weapon platform. Towards this, the design & development work is already completed and aircraft integration and flight testing is on schedule. It may be brought out that the first step of firing the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile in unguided mode has been successfully demonstrated. The IAF has ordered 20 aircraft in the FOC configuration on HAL. At this stage it would be correct to state that the aircraft is “Future Ready” to take up any new sensors, weapons or systems.

        Technologies in Tejas: Following are the major technologies that are built into the Tejas aircraft. These were developed in parallel to the aircraft development itself:

a)      Extensive use of composites in structure to an extent of about 90% by surface area and ~40% by weight

b)      Advanced Avionics and Sensors: Glass cockpit, Open Architecture Computers (OAC) performing the Mission computer role with a robust plan for obsolescence management. The Stores Management System (For Weapons) has dedicated stores data bus and enables easy role change

c)      The aircraft has an aerodynamically unstable configuration for enhanced maneuverability. The aircraft is controlled by a unique control law, allowing for high agility and carefree maneuvering

d)      The aircraft has Quad redundant Fly-by-wire (FBW) Digital Flight Control Computer (DFCC) providing adequate levels of redundancy

e)      Carbon brake discs for efficient braking

f)       High pressure hydraulic system (4000 psi) to power the safety critical flight control system and other systems

g)      Robust computerized health monitoring of various utility systems

h)     Zero-Zero ejection seat

i)       Extensive test and simulation facilities for supporting design and development activities prior to actual flight tests

       Major achievements in LCA AF Mk1: Following major achievements have been made in the Programme:

a)    Initial Operational Clearance in Dec 2013

b)    Flawless completion of over 3300 flights by 14 aircraft

c)    Sensor evaluation of Multi Mode Radar (MMR), Litening POD, HMDS, RWR, TACAN, IFF, VOR-ILS

d)    Successful integration and live demonstration of Air-to-Air missiles (R-73E and Derby) and Air-to-Ground weapons (1000 lb LGBs, 250 kg and 450 kg HSLD bombs) using advanced on-board sensors

e)    Swing-role capability demonstration during IRONFIST by simultaneous release of Laser guided bomb, Chaff & Flare followed by R73E missile

f)     Hot and Cold weather trials covering extremes of ambient conditions prevailing around the year and across the country, including at Leh

g)    Envelope expansion up to 26 AOA and +8.0g

h)    Night Flying

i)     Capability demonstration in Bahrain Airshow-2016, widely acclaimed and appreciated by the media and defence aviation professionals

j)     Flying for the first time over Rajpath during the Republic Day Parade on 26 Jan 2017

        Timelines of LCA AF Mk1: There is always a comment in some sections of the Media that the timelines of the Programme has stretched over 3 decades. Following graphic depicts the timelines in perspective. Govt. had initially sanctioned seed money to explore the feasibility of development of a light Fighter aircraft in the country. Along with this, funding was also provided to initiate a few technology development activities due to a gap in technology for over two decades since the HF-24 (Marut). Formal Govt. sanction for the LCA Programme was accorded in 1993 for design and development of two technology demonstrators. Maiden flight was carried out in 8 years from this date. Design to Production was another challenge and the block-3 in the graphic depicts this in the form of setting up Limited Series Production (LSP) infrastructure and then build LSP aircraft.

LCA AF Mk1A:

9.         The Indian Air Force has proposed and the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved ordering of 83 more aircraft in this configuration. Mk1A will have following major improvements:

a. Maintainability improvements like better access to equipment and interchangeable panels

b. Air to Air refuelling

c. Internal Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) and external Self Protection Jammer (SPJ) Pod to enhance Survivability

d. AESA Radar

e. Capability to integrate different Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missiles and Close Combat Missiles (CCM)

 

LCA Navy Mk1:

       The LCA (Navy) Programme was sanctioned by the Govt. in 2003 to develop a Naval Carrier borne Fighter aircraft capable of Ski-Jump Take-off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) for landing. It was initially envisaged that converting the already flying LCA AF aircraft to a Naval aircraft would take about six to seven years with changes restricted to about 15%. The two Naval Prototypes sanctioned would be used primarily to demonstrate Carrier Compatibility and also to demonstrate Initial Operational Capability (IOC) with Air Defence configuration.

      However, contrary to initial assumptions, during the aircraft design and development phase, the configuration, structural features and some of the systems turned out to be significantly different from the time of sanction in 2003 and challenges increased as the build progressed. Further, the major constraint of design space due to the philosophy of conversion of an existing LCA AF platform resulted in a sub-optimal configuration and compromises leading to the LCA Navy Mk1 Variant being heavier than anticipated. It may be highlighted that a Naval aircraft is typically 500 to 700 kg heavier than its Air force variant due to the need of strengthened structure, heavier landing gear and installation of arrester hook. However, LCA Navy Mk1 being a first time development with associated conservatism in design and constraints of Air Force configuration, led to an aircraft weight of around 900 to 1000 kg heavier than the LCA AF Mk1.

       Despite these challenges, the first LCA Navy Prototype (NP1), a Trainer, had its maiden flight on 27 Apr 2012, nine years from the sanction of the Programme. This achievement is considered contemporary and to be in a reasonable time frame even amongst other worldwide aircraft houses. Being a first time design and development of a Naval aircraft in the country, it is indeed creditable for the LCA (Navy) team in particular and the country in general to have achieved the maiden flight in these timeframes.

       As stated earlier, the Programme was originally having two prototypes, viz., NP1 (Navy Trainer) and NP2 (Navy Fighter). NP1 is on flight line and undertook the historic maiden ski-jump launch at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) at Goa on 20 Dec 2014. The second Prototype, NP2 had a successful maiden flight on 07 Feb 15.

  1. Based on the progress of the Programme and LCA (AF) experience, it has been suggested by the Govt. that there should be at least 3 more prototypes (one Trainer and Two Fighters). This will be taken up separately.

  1. A Structural Test Specimen of LCA Navy (STS-N) has been developed and integrated with the Main Airframe Static Test (MAST) Rig. This in fact is a full aircraft structure which is extensively instrumented. The structure is loaded in the MAST with the loads that the aircraft is likely to face in actual service usage (limit load) and the integrity is monitored. The structure is then loaded to 1.5 times (ultimate load) the load to check the reserve margin available. For e.g., for clearing 8’g’ envelope, the structure is loaded to 12’g’ in the MAST. The limit load test cases for 2 point, 3 point and arrested landing has been successfully completed. This provides a significant confidence as to the structural integrity of the aircraft design to operate in a Carrier Borne scenario.

Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF)

      A carrier borne Naval aircraft needs extensive testing on Shore Based facilities prior to its actual test and deployment on an aircraft carrier. From a worldwide search, it was observed that the US Navy has shore facilities for catapult take-off and arrested recovery. They did not have ski-jump facility. The other facility is in Ukraine which was created during the erstwhile Soviet Union times with ski-jump for launch and arrested recovery. This facility would have challenges to exploit. Further, there is no Restraining Gear System (RGS), as on the aircraft carrier, to hold back the aircraft during takeoff. Considering these factors, it was decided to build our own test facility to replicate an aircraft carrier, to the extent feasible, with a ski-jump for take-off and arrested landing facility. Further, in the National interest, it was decided that the specification caters for both the heavier aircraft (MiG-29K) and lighter aircraft (LCA Navy).

Achievements of LCA Navy Mk1

      Following significant achievements have been made in the Programme:

a)    Both aircraft has flown Supersonic

b)    Higher Angle of Attack of 23 deg achieved

c)    Center Line Drop Tank of 725 Ltrs integrated and flown

d)    Display at Def Expo 16, Goa

e)    13 Ski-jump launches at SBTF Goa; The Simulation Model has been validated and there is sufficient confidence in the model for predicting performance of the aircraft when getting airborne from the carrier

f)     Hot Refueling demonstrated. This has been a significant capability enhancer and has facilitated coverage of higher number of test points in a sortie.

g)    In-Flight Fuel Jettisoning

h)   Maiden Night Flying & Night Ski-Jump

i)     Data Link Functionality demonstrated

j)      Over 100 Field Carried Landing Practice (FCLP)

k)    High Sink Rate Landing up to 3.2 m/s demonstrated

      The test flying carried out so far has indicated that the aircraft has better potential than originally predicted in a conservative manner. Further, the test flying so far has also fine tuned the handling qualities of a typical carrier landing and the loads that are encountered. These are essential for the next phase of ‘Taxi-in’ arrested engagement at the SBTF, Goa followed by flight engagement. These activities are planned progressively during 2017.

 

LCA AF Mk2

       LCA AF Mk2 is envisaged as a performance enhancer over the LCA AF Mk1 / Mk1A. the aircraft would have a higher thrust engine, an optimised configuration that would enable performance improvements, larger internal fuel tank volume providing greater endurance and range, AESA Radar, internal EW suite, On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS), Air to Air Refuelling (AAR), improved Avionics & FCS, etc.,

       The configuration is under process of finalisation to meet the overall objectives specified by the IAF and is being pursued. This is an opportunity to improve significantly Reliability, Maintainability and Accessibility that would benefit the User in Squadron service. There is an effort to have a larger element of indigenisation of the aircraft in terms of Line Replaceable Units (LRUs). This is also providing an opportunity for obsolescence management. Based on the lessons learnt, ground and flight test experience of LCA Mk1, the structural design is optimised in terms of reserve margins. This will facilitate weight savings overall.

LCA Navy Mk2

       As early as in Dec 2009, it was recognized that the LCA Navy Mk1, due to the available engine thrust and the penalties in conversion, would have a few shortfalls in full mission capabilities sought by the Indian Navy when operating from an aircraft carrier with ski jump launch. A new Programme with a higher thrust engine was sanctioned termed LCA Navy Mk2. This Programme is envisaged to minimise the constraints of LCA Navy Mk1 and would have significant changes in design to improve aerodynamics, landing gear & arrester hook optimization, structural design optimisation, updated sensors, Avionics, Flight Control System, etc. The two Prototypes have been designated NP3 and NP4 (both Fighters).

       Whilst the LCA Navy Mk1, a conversion of the Air Force version to a Naval version, would give valuable inputs in the core carrier suitability technologies of ski-jump take-off and arrested recovery, LCA Navy Mk2 is conceptualised ab-initio to be optimised for carrier borne application. The configuration is expected to provide a significant enhancement in terms of performance capability with aerodynamic and mass optimisation.

       Significant design effort has been put in to realise an aircraft that is capable of take-off from the ski jump with much heavier payloads as compared to the LCA Navy Mk1. The landing gear complexity has been reduced; consequently there is a mass optimisation. The arrester hook installation has been optimised and blends with the bottom structure of the rear fuselage. These steps are considered as an essential step towards any potential twin engined deck based aircraft development in the country to be taken up in the future.

New Initiatives

       Design and development of higher thrust improved version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is in progress. This will provide further maintainability improvements and capability enhancements. Preliminary work has been initiated on the twin engined Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) that would be in the 5th Generation class. In addition, there is a plan to progress simultaneously with Technology upgrades of the various aircraft systems and testing infrastructure.

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