The LCA design was finalised in 1990 as a small tail-less delta winged machine with relaxed static stability (RSS) to enhance maneuverability performance and a host of other advanced features. A review committee was formed in May 1989 which reported that Indian infrastructure, facilities and technology had advanced sufficiently in most areas to undertake the project. It was decided that the full-scale engineering development (FSED) stage of the programme would proceed in two stages.
Phase 1 - TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATION STAGE (TD-1 & 2)
The focus in this phase was on ‘proof of concept’. It entailed the development and testing of two technology demonstrator aircraft. These aircraft were called TD-1 and TD-2. The decision to move forward was to be taken after the successful completion of this phase. This would be followed by the production of additional prototype vehicles. There were teething issues during this phase and finally TD-1 flew on 04 January 2001 with Wing Commander Rajiv Kothiyal on the controls. The significance of this golden-day in the history of Indian aviation can be gauged by the fact that the last time an indigenous aircraft had got airborne was almost 40 years ago on 17 June 1961.
Phase 2 - ADDITIONAL TESTING PHASE (PV-1, PV-2, PV-3 and PV-5)
This phase consisted of additional testing and development of systems using Prototype Vehicles which would lead to the development of the final variant that would join the IAF and the Indian Navy. The first Prototype Vehicle, PV-1 flew on 25 November 2003.
By 2005, the Tejas had proven itself in the testing phase and the first order for 20 Series Production aircrafts was placed. A follow on order for an additional 20 SP aircraft was placed in 2010.
Planned Product Variants
Two-seat operational conversion trainer for the Indian Air Force.
Twin- and single-seat carrier-capable variants for the Indian Navy. The LCA's naval variant is to be ready for carrier trials and is slated for deployment on the INS Vikramaditya as well as the Vikrant class aircraft carrier. It will be equipped for carrier operation with the capability to carry out ski-jump take-off and arrested landing. It will include strengthened airframe and landing gear and the nose is drooped for better cockpit vision.
SP-1 to SP-40 production started in 2013
LCA AF MK2
The MK2 is an improvement over LCA AF Mk1 with higher thrust engine. This aircraft will have improved survivability, maintainability and obsolescence mitigation. Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Unified Electronic warfare Suite (UEWS) and On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) are some of the state of the art technologies planned to be integrated. The cockpit design has been improved with bigger size, smart Multi function Displays (MFD) and smart Head Up Display (HUD).
LCA Navy MK2
LCA Navy Programme to design and develop a Carrier Borne Fighter Aircraft was sanctioned in 2003 after the successful initial flight testing of LCA (Air Force) variant, Tejas. Two prototypes, a two seat Trainer (NP1) and a single seat Fighter (NP2) with more internal fuel have been developed in Phase-1 of the programme.
Phase-2 of LCA Navy Programme envisages development of two single seat Fighter aircraft with a new higher thrust engine (GE-F414-INS6) and further design optimisation to reduce drag. LCA Navy MK2 would undergo weight reduction through a redesigned landing gear and associated structure and increased internal fuel as critical driving factors in its design. LCA Navy Mk2 will have enhanced mission performance and better maintainability.