On 11 May 2016, after thirty years of flying from Indian Navy aircraft carriers, the iconic Sea Harrier jump jet made its last flight with the Indian Navy. Built by BAE Systems, the Sea Harriers operated from India’s erstwhile air craft carriers, the INS Vikrant and INS Viraat, both of which are now no longer in Service.
On the occasion of their de-induction, Mr Alistair Castle, VP and GM-India, BAE Systems stated: “We are very proud of our support to the Indian Navy in keeping the iconic Sea Harriers airworthy over the last 33 years. Three decades ago, when the Sea Harriers were inducted, these aircraft with modern weaponry, avionics and an engine which could land the aircraft vertically, defying all the laws of aerodynamics, introduced V/STOL for the Indian Navy. On this symbolic day, we re-dedicate ourselves to our partnership with the Indian Navy through our continued support on the Hawk advanced jet trainer.”
The Sea Harriers are being replaced by the indigenously built Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The naval version of Tejas will operate from the Vikrant’s successor, an indigenous aircraft carrier under development that is scheduled to be commissioned in 2018. Commodore (Retd) CD Balaji, chief of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which oversees the Tejas development programme, stated that taking off and landing from a 200-metre deck has been fully established. So has “hotrefuelling” — topping up the aircraft after a sortie with the engine running and the pilot in the cockpit — which allows a rapid turnaround between sorties.The Tejas will fill in the crucial light fighter slot for the INS Vikrant and, subsequently, INS Vishal. The MiG-29K will be the medium fighter on INS Vikrant.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha flew a trainer version of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) on 17 May 2016. “It’s a good aircraft to fly and fit to be inducted into our fleet,” He said.
The current Tejas Mark 1 is fitted with the F-404 engine. The Tejas Mark 2 will have the more powerful General Electric F-414 engine. Carrier based trials are likely to be completed in 2017 and the system is likely to be operationalised thereafter.