Howard Gethin/LONDON

India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is continuing to undergo taxi trials, but remains grounded because of the lack of a reliable flight control computer. The system was impounded by US officials after Indian scientists working in the USA were sent home following India's nuclear tests in May last year.


The fighter programme had been receiving assistance from Lockheed Martin, which was developing the flight control system in partnership with Indian scientists from the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE)working in the USA. In particular, Lockheed Martin was helping with the aircraft's digital flight control computer (DFCC).

Lockheed Martin Control Systems says that when the export/import licences to India were withdrawn and India's ADE representatives were thrown out of the USA, they were prevented from taking the two DFCCs and associated test equipment. The DFCCs were built by Lockheed Martin. The test stands were assembled by ADE.

Lockheed Martin believes the Indians have constructed 10 more DFCCs and at least two more test stands in India.

Lockheed Martin and the ADE were in the process of system integration and testing when the licence was withdrawn last year. The US company estimates that about a year's worth of work remained to be done at the point the assistance was withdrawn. It believes the Indians can continue development on their own, but that it will take them longer.

The Indian Government is reported to be in negotiations with the US Government and Lockheed Martin over the return of the DFCC, but "the USA is simply refusing to part with it" according to Indian media reports.

The LCA has been delayed by several years because of funding and technical problems. It was rolled out in 1995, but has yet to fly. A maiden flight is not expected until at least late this year.

Source: Flight International