The LSP-8 (Serial KH2018) made its first flight fitted with a Cobham in-flight refueling probe on 31st Jan 2017. The fixed probe is fitted in front of the canopy, and offset to the starboard side of the aircraft, similar to the Mirage 2000 and Rafale fixed refueling probes.
The first flight test was used simply to collect air data and to monitor aircraft performance with the probe attached. LSP-8 has already gone through all the required structural modifications and software updates required to enable in-flight refueling, and ground trials of in-flight refueling have been carried out successfully demonstrating the capability.
HAL will now replicate these trials in the air, first ensuring that the probe does not affect aircraft aerodynamics, then progressing on to multiple 'dry contacts' with a tanker before attempting actual 'wet' fuel transfers.
In-flight refueling is a critical requirement for Final Operational Clearance (FOC) of the Tejas Mk1 for the Indian Air Force. While FOC had been earlier planned for March 2017, HAL CMD T Suvarna Raju recently confirmed that the milestone would not be achieved before December 2017.
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