India has put back the first flight of its LCA light combat aircraft until at least the start of 1998. The aircraft was rolled out in November 1995 and has been subjected to a series of delays since.

The delay to the 8.5t fighter is thought to be caused by difficulties at the Indian Ministry of Defence's Aeronautical Development Agency in ironing out software problems on the flght-control system.

The LCA is scheduled to have an initial operating capability in 2002 and full clearance three years later. The dates are increasingly under threat, however, as the programme runs into continuing delays.

The aircraft was to have been flown in 1996, powered by a single General Electric F404-GE-F2J3. Production versions are scheduled to have the locally developed Kaveri turbofan, now in development. That date, and two subsequent dates, have been abandoned and uncertainty over the timing of the first flight was such that, by the time of the Paris air show in June, officials of aircraft builder Hindustan Aeronautics were refusing to name a date when the LCA would be flown.

Source: Flight International