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India’s indigenous defense capabilities are set to take another leap forward with the upcoming production of the Light Combat Aircraft Mk2 (LCA-Mk2), a state-of-the-art fighter aircraft that promises to elevate the nation’s aerial prowess. The collaborative efforts of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) are driving this ambitious project, with a rescheduled timeline aimed at ensuring higher indigenous content in the aircraft.

The green light for the LCA-Mk2 project was given by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in September 2022, with an allocated budget of ?9,000 crore. This advanced fighter jet is expected to hit the skies for its maiden flight in approximately three years, heralding a new era in India’s defense capabilities.

Distinguishing itself from its predecessor, the LCA-Mk2 will incorporate several enhancements. With the inclusion of canards, the aircraft’s maneuverability will be enhanced, making it even more adept in combat situations. Additionally, the aircraft’s length will be increased by 1,350 mm, allowing for improved aerodynamics and greater payload capacity. The LCA-Mk2 will be capable of carrying a payload of 6,500 kg, a significant upgrade from the 3,500 kg capacity of the Mk1.

Powering the LCA-Mk2 will be the General Electric F-414 engine, known for its reliability and performance. This engine will provide a thrust of 98 kN, ensuring the aircraft’s agility and speed in various operational scenarios.

One of the key challenges in the development of the LCA-Mk2 has been to increase the indigenous content in the aircraft’s components. The initial target of achieving 70 percent indigenous content has been raised to an impressive 82 percent. This focus on indigenous manufacturing is in line with India’s broader goals of self-reliance and reducing dependency on foreign-made defense equipment.

As per the rescheduled timeline, the prototype rollout for the LCA-Mk2 is anticipated to take place by the end of 2024 or early 2025. The maiden flight is expected to occur in 2025 itself. The limited-scale production of LCA-AF Mk2 is set to commence from 2030, marking a significant milestone in the project’s progression. Subsequently, the production line will be transformed into a full-fledged assembly line from 2032 onwards, aligned with IAF’s commitment to procure 120 units of the advanced fighter jet.

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