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The Naval Prototype 5 (NP-5) of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Navy MkI Trainer aircraft has achieved a significant milestone by completing its engine ground run on January 16, 2023. This achievement was recently confirmed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a State-owned aerospace and defence company in India.

The LCA-Navy MkI Trainer aircraft was initially developed as a Technology Demonstrator for the larger LCA-Navy MkII, a Single Engine Deck-based fighter jet. However, the MkII variant was later abandoned in favour of the Twin-engined Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF) program, which is expected to be a more capable and advanced aircraft with a weight of 26 tonnes.

NP-5 is a crucial element in the development of the TEDBF program. It will be primarily used to conduct off-nominal landing trials to study and collect critical data on the stress points experienced by the landing gears during different landing scenarios. This data will play a pivotal role in designing and developing robust and reliable landing gears for the TEDBF aircraft.

The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and the Indian Navy have been engaged in discussions regarding the production of eight LCA-Navy Trainer aircraft. These trainers would be instrumental in training future fighter pilots to operate advanced aircraft like the Mig-29K, Rafale M, and TEDBF fighters. However, the Indian Navy has not yet made a final decision on the proposal, and further deliberations are expected.

Despite this progress, HAL has not officially confirmed whether the first flight of NP-5 has been carried out. Additionally, they have not provided details about when they plan to conduct the maiden flight.

The successful engine ground run of NP-5 marks an essential step forward in the development of India’s indigenous aircraft carrier-based fighter aircraft program.

The TEDBF, which is being developed as a powerful and capable twin-engine fighter jet, is expected to bolster the Indian Navy’s aviation capabilities significantly. Once operational, the TEDBF will play a crucial role in ensuring the country’s maritime security and strengthening its defence posture in the Indian Ocean region.

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