R Madhavan. Chairman & Managing Director Hindustan Aeronautics Limited while updating on the LCA-AF Mk2 program to the ” The Hindu ” said that the rollout of the first aircraft might be delayed to early 2023 as the company fears that spike in covid cases in the country might result in lockdowns that might affect supply chain that will delay in the supply of components and systems for the program.

LCA-AF Mk2 initially planned for August this year was pushed back to the end of this year and now hints are been dropped that it might be again be pushed to early 2023 that in HAL words can be up to March when the financial year for the company ends.

Delayed rollout of the LCA-AF Mk2 will have a direct effect on the scheduled first flight that was to take place after the conclusion of ground testing along with low and high-speed taxi trials of the aircraft within one year from its rollout. Rollout in 2023 will mean test flight will be pushed into 2024 that will further push its developmental phase up to 2029 and production in 2030.

This might seem like a minor delay but over the months this might acclimate to a year or two by the time the developmental cycle of the new aircraft is completed. As seen, the new IAF chief doesn’t seem to be a fan of the LCA-AF Mk2 program much and media reports do indicate that IAF is thinking about the transition from LCA-Tejas Mk1A to AMCA while skipping the LCA-AF Mk2 project altogether and any delays will increase its chances of being canceled.

HAL like all state-owned companies seems to have failed to secure its supply lines as the country continues to be hit by multiple covid waves at regular intervals. Covid did hit all major aerospace industries badly in the first wave that resulted in disruption of the supply chain but most of the companies have adapted very fast to new challenges and have switched to automation in a much larger way but lack of even basic automation at HAL production floor is not only hampering the production line but has emerged as a major challenge to the company which it has failed to switch.

2021 saw Chinese aircraft manufacturers deliver record 100 fighter jets in the year, and Lockheed Martin after delays in 2021, now plans to deliver 150 F-35 this year, while in India, HAL chief is warning about possible delays in delivery of 10 Tejas Mk1 jets due to possible covid restrictions and disturbed supply lines after the recent spike. While all major aerospace companies have recovered lost time and have adapted to work under covid situations, the HAL production line goes haywire after every spike in the country.

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Article by SATYAJEET KUMAR ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or