The Indian government has authorised Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) to start limited series production of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), and has ordered eight aircraft for delivery from 2006.

The second General Electric F404-powered LCA prototype is due to make its maiden flight imminently, says HAL chairman NR Mohanty.

The first LCA flew in January last year, but progress has been slow due to US sanctions following India's nuclear test. However, Mohanty expects work on the project to accelerate following the USA's recent decision to lift the embargo.

HAL now aims to buy more F404s to power development and production-standard LCAs rather than using the indigenous Kaveri powerplant. "The Kaveri is not meeting requirements," says Mohanty. "More F404s are coming in the next few months."

Among other HAL development programmes, Mohanty is confident its Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) will have its first flight by year-end.

The fuselage of the first IJT has been completed, and the aircraft's Snecma Larzac engine will be delivered in July. "We want to develop this engine to have a full-authority digital engine control and more thrust," says Mohanty. He expects the air force to acquire "a minimum of 200" IJTs.

Meanwhile, HAL has finally delivered the first two Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) to the Indian army after a protracted delay. Mohanty says another six ALHs will be handed over to the air force, navy and coastguard by the end of this month.

Plans to assemble ATR 42 turboprops could be resurrected later this year if the Indian Coastguard proceeds with plans to acquire a couple of aircraft, he says.

Mohanty aims to establish the state-owned company as an active player in global markets and outsource the bulk of "low- and medium-tech" jobs to the private sector.

Source: Flight International