A crucial round of armament trials of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas has just begun in Jaisalmer. Close on its heels, a second round of trials will take place in Goa next month.

Four Tejas aircraft — the Prototype Vehicle-3 (PV3) besides Limited-Series-Production (LSP) aircraft 2, 4 and 5 — have reached Jaisalmer to conduct a series of target-firing of laser-guided bombs. While three aircraft will fire munitions, one will be on standby. “The LCA will, for the first time, precision-fire 1,000 kg bombs at designated stationary ground targets using its laser designator pod for target acquisition. In all, 18 such bombs would be fired by these aircraft as part of the trials, aiming to hit targets in a one metre radius. It is, therefore, a significant trial for the aircraft,” a top source told The Hindu.

The Jaisalmer phase of the trial, expected to be over by the end of this month, will also have LCA pilots practising release of 25-pound dummy bombs. The weapon trials are conducted by test pilots of the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC), Bangalore.

During the second phase of the weapon trials, slated to begin by mid-October at the naval airbase INS Hansa in Goa, Vympel R-73 air-to-air close combat missile will be test-fired from a Tejas aircraft. Coming up for the LCA after the weapon trials will be a swift hot-and-cold weather trial in which an aircraft taking off from Jaisalmer will fly straight to Leh, where it will have a series of flight trials. “It is likely to take place by November-end or in the first week of December,” the source said.

While the sixth Limited Series Production (LSP-6) aircraft, designed with special features, continues to strive to attain a high angle of attack, indicating the aircraft's agility, LCA Prototype Vehicle-1 (PV1) is taking on some electronic warfare (EW) features.

“At the moment, there is a lot of wiring going into the aircraft. Once ready, it will be flown to the Air Force Station in Gwalior, where its electronic warfare mettle would be tested,” said the source.

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