The Indian air force has ordered 16 Hindustan Aeronautics Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), but initial series production aircraft are likely to be powered by General Electric engines.

Development of the fighter's indigenous Kaveri engine has suffered additional setbacks and India's Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) says the first fully certificated Kaveri will not be available until 2007.

HAL chairman N R Mohantysays development of the single-engined LCA is complete, but adds that the Kaveri engine has had "serious problems".

GTRE chief test engineer RK Hanachander says the engine's compressor blades have had to be redesigned to overcome "serious vibration problems" due to rotor dynamics. GTRE was only able to achieve an overall pressure ratio of 19.5, although the targeted ratio was 21.5. The engine, which has only accumulated 1,200h of its projected 8,000h of test runs since programme launch in 1986, is to restart full-scale testing next year with the launch of a new rebladed prototype.

This year GTRE plans just 250h of ground tests, including high-altitude simulation tests to be carried out next month at Russia's central institute for aviation motors in Moscow.

Hamachander says the new prototype will not produce more power than the engine's 11,700lb-thrust (52kN) rating, but its weight will be reduced from 1,100kg (2,420lb) to around 950kg. GTRE hopes to conduct over 6,000h of tests in 2004-5 and expects final certification by the end of 2005, with flight tests on board the LCA requiring an additional two years. The initial Indian air force aircraft will be equipped with GE F404 engines, which became available when the the USA lifted its arms embargo.

Source: Flight International