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Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is putting the LCA-Tejas Mk1A fighter jet through its paces in a critical airframe fatigue testing program. This initiative, launched in 2022 at the newly established Main Airframe Fatigue Test (MAFT) facility in Bengaluru, is designed to ensure the aircraft’s structural integrity and longevity.

The MAFT program involves subjecting a Tejas Mk1 airframe to simulated flight conditions that accelerate the ageing process. This is achieved by meticulously replicating the stresses and strains experienced by the aircraft during various maneuvers. Over eight to nine years, the test airframe will endure an equivalent of 8,000 hours of flight time – a significantly higher rate than actual operations, which typically involve around 200 hours per year.

HAL’s objective is to certify the Tejas Mk1A for a service life of 30-40 years, translating to roughly 4 hours of flying time per week. However, metal fatigue, a natural consequence of repeated stress cycles, can lead to the formation of microscopic cracks that compromise airframe safety over extended periods.

The MAFT program plays a vital role in mitigating this risk. By simulating 800-1000 hours of flight time annually, the test airframe ages at an accelerated rate, allowing engineers to identify potential fatigue issues well before they develop in operational aircraft. This comprehensive testing will provide valuable data to determine the Tejas Mk1A’s actual service life and establish appropriate maintenance schedules.

The successful completion of the MAFT program is a crucial step towards ensuring the Tejas Mk1A’s readiness for long-term service with the Indian Air Force. This robust fighter jet, designed and built indigenously, is poised to play a vital role in India’s aerial defence for decades to come.

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