The third prototype (PV3) of India's Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) completed a 32min debut flight in Bangalore on 1 December, expanding the Aeronautical Development Agency's fleet of two prototypes and two technology demonstrators. Featuring improved avionics and flight-control software, PV3 reached an altitude of 8,200ft (2,500m) and a speed of Mach 0.8 during its first sortie.
India's LCA fleet has now completed 575 flights, and the integration and trial of various sensors and weapon systems is planned to be completed within 18 months. A naval variant of the aircraft is scheduled to make its first flight next year, according to sources within the country's Defence Research and Development Organisation.
Hindustan Aeronautics will also deliver four limited series production examples of the aircraft over the next 15 months, with the type to achieve initial operational capability in 2008. The Indian air force had originally planned to buy 200 Tejas aircraft, but has so far ordered just 20, while preparing to launch a separate contest for 126 new light fighters.
Meanwhile, India is seeking foreign assistance to overcome difficulties experienced during development of the LCA's multi-mode radar and Gas Turbine Research Establishment Kaveri engine. It has received responses to the latter request from NPO Saturn, Pratt & Whitney and Snecma.