AERO INDIA: EADS to assist with flight testing India's light combat aircraft

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EADS will help India's Aeronautical Development Agency obtain the initial and final operational clearances for the country's indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft, with the European consortium expected to sign a $20 million contract shortly.

"It is not that our own design team will not be able to complete initial operating capability [IOC] and full operating capability without outside help. However, EADS's experience will help us to speed up the process and meet the target of achieving the IOC by the end of 2010," says P S Subramanyam, programme director (combat aircraft) at the agency, which is responsible for the Tejas's design and development.

He adds that EADS, which was selected over companies such as Boeing, Dassault, Lockheed Martin and Saab, would not be involved in the aircraft's design or development. "Their only role is to be consultants, limited to helping us find out what is necessary and what is not to achieve the IOC. They will not tinker with anything else."

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EADS is likely to help the development agency and Hindustan Aeronautics, which manufactures the Tejas, to expand the aircraft's flight envelope and help the tests leading up to the IOC. Its officials will also help India to refine some of the existing simulation models, he adds.

After achieving the IOC in late 2010, the development agency aims to deliver the first fighter to the Indian air force in 2011. The final operational clearance is expected by December 2012, and the service is expected to have its first Tejas squadron by 2014.

Hindustan Aeronautics, which manufactures the aircraft, has produced two technology demonstrators, three prototypes, and two limited series production aircraft. They had chalked up 1,030 test flights as of 9 February, including cold-weather trials in December and January. The aircraft will soon enter the weapons integration stage and undergo hot weather trials around April. A two-seater trainer prototype could have its first flight in the next two months, while a naval prototype is a year away.

The Tejas has faced several delays due to problems with the aircraft's design and the development of an indigenous engine.