World War II spurred the initial development of turbojet aircraft, but it wasn’t until the Korean War that any American jets would see combat. Pace captures the struggle of the Air Force (established as an independent branch of the military in 1947) to go from a gigantic fleet of rapidly obsolete propeller planes to a sleek, fast, jet-powered existence.
Carrier-capable (and using arrested recovery) twin-engine jets, due to its inherent design, has a poor climb rates, poor sustained turn capability, and a low maximum speed. The Rafale M weighs about 500 kg more than the Rafale C. For carrier operations, the M model has a strengthened airframe, longer nose gear leg to provide a more nose-up attitude, larger tailhook between the engines, and a built-in boarding ladder. Rafale and Super Hornet, which are designed and built to be launched from aircraft carriers with catapults, are capable of “ski-jump” launches from the two Indian carriers, neither of which have catapults. Without catapults, those aircraft will have to be launched with significantly lower payloads of fuel and weapons, especially in India’s warmer environment. The navy has done no studies of the compromises that will be necessary.
Chinese fighters are designated with a "J" for fighter and "FC" for export.
All composite panels are built by glued together successive layers of raisins, by hand, before being sent to the autoclaves for co-curing.
The E-152\1 or E-166 (also known as Ye-152-1) was a delta-winged interceptor prototype, similar to the production MiG-21, was powered by a Tumansky R-15B-300 axial-flow turbojet engine with a five-stage compressor and single-stage turbine. At the time, the USSR did not have the resources to exploit metals such as titanium, or other composite alloys, which could have greatly reduced the engine's weight. At speeds above mach 3, the force of the engine sucking fuel through the pumps overwhelmed the pumps' ability to limit the flow. At this point, the engines effectively became ramjets, as air began to bypass the low pressure compressors, accelerating out of control until the pilot could regain throttle control through using firewalls or compressor stall, or the tanks ran dry. This was the first Soviet jet engine to use electronic engine control. This was the original engine in the MiG-25.
The west has moved from being aircraft centric to a weapon and sensor centric planning. These fighters were no match for the targeting of new powerful radars, jammers and air-to-air missiles. The requirement is thus for heavy weapons load and precision engagement capabilities of modern strike fighter with the long loiter time, rough field capabilities and the ability to take punishment. And it needs to be fast, cheap and exportable.
Sir Frank Whittle invented the jet engine. When the young RAF officer took his idea to the Air Ministry later in 1929 they had rejected Whittle's design as impractical and carried on ordering traditional planes with propellers. So Whittle took out a patent to protect his turbojet idea which was duly published by the Patent Office. Others saw its merits, however, and German diplomats in London wasted no time ordering copies of the patent. When the patent expired in 1935, Whittle could not even afford the £5 renewal fee.
The son of a toolmaker, Whittle childhood heroes were the dashing aces of the early Royal Flying Corps and he went straight from school to the Royal Air Force's apprentice school. The RAF remained supportive of their young genius, however, financing Whittle through Cambridge where, needless to say, he took a First Class degree in Mechanical Sciences. Finally, two friends helped him secure enough backing to start a company called Power Jets Ltd, and in April 1937 he fired up an experimental jet engine for the first time. In 1941, a Gloster E28 plane took off with a Whittle jet engine inside it - 12 years after he had first had the idea. Britain had taken the lead in what would be known as the jet age.
By then, however, the Nazis - equipped with Whittle's original patent - had already beaten him into the air. In 1939, a German engineer called Hans von Ohain had built the first jet plane to take to the sky. It was unreliable and could travel for only six minutes, but history had been made. Nazi Germany had produced the "first jet aircraft to enter service".
Until 1944, Whittle had worked in secret. But the Government was looking for public heroes and Whittle was suddenly outed as a national treasure whose secret weapon would help win the war. And then the Government nationalised Power Jets in 1944. Whittle was still making great advances and was working on the world's first supersonic plane.
With America now in the war and providing crucial men and matÈriel, Britain was providing scientific know-how in return. All Whittle's research was handed over to the Americans and Britain's early lead in what would become one of the great post-war industries was simply surrendered. Whittle suffered from nervous exhaustion, retired from the RAF in 1948.
Among his many achievements, he was behind the improvements in the Merlin supercharger that gave the Spitfire a vastly improved performance which was developed throughout the war; he cured the problems that early on beset the gas turbine engine powering Britain's first jet, the Gloster Whittle; he designed the compressors for the world's first turbofan to go into service, the Conway; and he championed the three-shaft engine concept for the RB211, originally developed for the Lockheed TriStar, and subsequently powering variants of the Boeing 747, 757 and 767 airliners.
In 1947 Wilde was in charge of the intensive work on the axial compressor for the AJ65 Avon engine, whose development had run into trouble from repeatedly broken turbine blades as customers were awaiting delivery of it for their new aircraft. Wilde instituted 24/7 testing of the multi-stage compressor, which led to a solution of the problem, and the Avon became one of Rolls-Royce's most successful postwar designs, powering versions of the Canberra bomber, Comet airliner and Hunter fighter.
Continuing in charge of compressor development, Wilde oversaw design of the compressors of the Conway, the first bypass (turbofan) engine to go into service in the world. It powered the Handley Page Victor V-bomber, the Vickers VC10 airliner and versions of the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC8.
With successors to the Avon and Conway being sought, from 1956 he set up the advanced projects design office which proposed a variety of civil and military projects including V/STOL aircraft. From this work arose the Medway and Spey engines, the latter of which powered variants of the Buccaneer and Nimrod, and was built under licence in America by the Allison company.
In 1960 Wilde was chosen to form the preliminary design department, choosing the three-shaft design which was launched as the RB211. At the same time he proposed the wide chord fan blade to obtain maximum aerodynamic efficiency. In theory the larger the fan diameter (the line from the tip of one fanblade to its opposite member) the greater the thrust. In practical applications, fan size is limited by the weight, the space available around the aircraft and by the increased drag (resistance) generated by the larger frontal area. Widening the blade chord will increase the blade drag while lengthening the blade will increase tip speed (and noise) plus it may make the fandisc impractically large. A larger blade is also heavier, which when taken together with increasing tip speed as the fandisc gets larger, puts a point of diminishing return between weight and blade length (tip speed). A wide chord engine addresses this by having fewer, wider, blades meaning a wide chord fan engine will have fewer, but more effective, fanblades compared to a regular jet engine. To address the weight issue, blades are often hollow and made from titanium. Finally, blades are often given a scimitar shape to achieve higher flying speeds.
One of the most serious problems had been the short life of the high-pres-sure turbine blade, and it was recognised that the Rolls lacked high temperature technology. Hooker, called back to the company after a period with Bristol, put Wilde in charge of research on combustion and turbines. Wilde's team initiated a series of advanced test programmes, and during this time he changed the whole approach to how technology programmes were formulated and managed.
This work laid the foundation for the design of turbine blades for the Trent engine series of today, a family of high bypass turbofan engines, which are developments of the RB211. Versions of the Trent are in service on the Airbus A330, A340, A380 and Boeing 777, and variants are in development for the forthcoming 787 and A350.
The J-10 began in the late 1980s and is thought to be based on an Israeli design. It contains Israeli and Russian avionics, and is powered by Russian engines. Chinese engineers developed the J-10 from a single F-16 provided by Pakistan, and with assistance from Israeli engineers & Israel's US-financed Lavi fighter program, which got cancelled in 1987.
The F-106 and F-102 in fact originated as only one aircraft, the so called "1954 Ultimate Interceptor." The F-102E designation of the ultimate interceptor was changed to F-106. Lessons learned led to a coke bottle fuselage, a swept top fin with flattop making a very sleek machine. The Navy jocks learned valuable lessons that the Delta winged 106 was almost unconquerable in the dogfight arena, with guns in the air-to-air environment. The F-106 was gradually replaced in the air-defense role by an interceptor version of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.
The F-102 utilized an advanced delta-wing configuration with specialized area rule specifications brought to light from German wartime testing. The delta wing remained substantially unchanged, but the fuselage was modified to accommodate more powerful Pratt & Whitney J-75 turbojet. Engine intakes were re-located behind the cockpit and were variable for optimum engine performance at all speeds. The cockpit was moved forward relatively, and the shape of the fin and rudder changed.
The Convair company was very interested in Lippisch's delta-wing concepts and came up with a concept for a delta-winged interceptor, designated experimental XF-92A, which Convair built in 1948 as a test bed to provide data for the proposed F-92 Mach 1.5 fighter. This work had been performed in consultation with Dr. Alexander Lippisch, who had done pioneering work in Germany on delta wing aircraft during the war, and Convair had become convinced that the delta configuration provided a viable solution to the problems of supersonic flight. The XF-92A had been the first powered delta wing aircraft to fly, but the F-92 project had itself been cancelled before any prototype could be built.
The XF-92A was something of a disappointment, being both unreliable and performing well below expectations, which were admittedly inflated. It proved very useful, however, in correcting misperceptions and providing extensive data on the flight characteristics of delta-winged aircraft.
When the nimble silver-coloured swept-wing Mig-15 appeared it was a surprise for the UN pilots flying the F-80 Shooting Star and F-84 Thunder jets. After the lessons from the Korean War, it was bettered as Mig-17 and the much improved Mig-19 (both combat proven in the Vietnam War). This was the ground work before the arrival of Mig-21. It K-13 (AA2) missile was a reversed engineered copy of the American infra-red homing air to air AIM-9 Sidewinder missile (provided by China).
The delta-winged mig-21 "Balalaika" was revolutionary invention because it combined both the qualities of a fighter and interceptor. It was relatively low tech, so many could fly it easily, and so earning the name “The People’s Fighter” . The aircraft is the most-produced combat jet in aviation history since World War II. Over 11,000 air frames of the original MIG variant and its copies, like the Chinese-made Chengdu J-7, have been built since 1959. (As an aside the MiG-21 also had a feature you don’t see anymore, the use of a movable nose cone adjusting the air intake as a function of speed)
In the sky of Vietnam, the most frightening enemy of the American pilots was Mikoyan Gurevich Mig-21, more known under the name of code of NATO ' Fishbed'. In spite of its operating range limited and a rudimentary system of weapons, the Migone was difficult to cut down and the Mig-21 ratio abattus/avions American lost was often less important than the United States could have wished it. In the Middle East (in spite of the statistics advanced by the Israeli propagandists) MiG21 gained several victories over the Mirage and F-4 Israelis, in spite owing to the fact that the Israeli pilots were trained better and that their tactics were higher.
The MIG-21, which marked 50 years of service with the Indian Air Force in April this year, has been the backbone of the air force’s fleet. The aircraft has participated in every major conflict involving India since 1963, and still forms the bedrock for most of the air force’s operations.
The Indian MiG-21 fleet is large – almost 15 squadrons, or nearly 300 aircraft. The Indian Air Force has inducted more than 1,200 MIG variants in its fleet since 1963. from the earliest Type 77, the updated Type 96 and the Bison. The saga of the MiG-21 in the IAF began in 1962, with the selection of the initial batch of pilots who were short-listed to undergo training in Russia on this particular aircraft. They were a mix of flying instructors, pilot attack instructors or day fighter leaders, with plenty of flying hours behind them.
The acquisition of the Starfighter by the Pakistanis and the subsequent strained relations with China led the IAF into thinking of building a supersonic interceptor force. The IAF short-listed the Mirage III, the Starfighter and the MiG-21, roughly in that order. The high cost of the Mirage and the reluctance of the Americans to give the Starfighter coupled with the easy terms for the manufacture and buying the MiG-21s saw that the Russians got the order and ultimately the IAF flew over 700 variants of the MiG-21. The Air Force top brass of the time was dead against buying the MiG-21, but the forceful presence of the then-Defence Minister Krishna Menon, saw to it that the deal went through.
The deal for the MiGs was signed in August 1962 and two months later, the first batch of Indian pilots numbered seven, along with 15 engineers who were nominated to be trained as the ground support staff went to Russia in October 1962, when the Indo-China hostilities broke out. The pilots & engineers were then headed by Wg. Cdr. Dilbagh Singh (Later Chief of Air Staff). And were posted at Lugovaya, a desolate air force base at Kazakhstan near Tashkent. (The facilities given for housing the pilots was appalling.)
The initial MiG-21Fs had no gun, only the K-13 air-to-air missile. On the insistence of the pilots an external gun-pod was fitted. But this was limited to only the Type 74. In March 1965, the squadron received six MiG-21FL (Type 76) aircraft. This aircraft was more pleasant to fly than the MiG-21F because of its roll-stabilization system. It was equipped with airborne intercept radar (RIL), the first such radar in any IAF aircraft. Inwards of 20 km, the pilot could locate and intercept a target, with this radar. Perhaps more important being that the MiG could fly twice the speed of the sound, allowing it to match its nearest rival with the PAF, the F-104 Starfighter.
In the 1965 Indo-Pak war, the small but significant role played by the MiG-21s in the 1965 War was important in not what it contributed to India's war effort but more in what lacunae the effort helped identify in the MiG. The corrections and modifications applied as a result were to pay a rich dividend in the later 1971 conflict.
In the first ever supersonic air combat that ensued over the sub-continent in 1971, an Indian MiG-21 FL claimed a PAF F-104 Starfighter with its internal twin-barrelled guns alone. By end of the hostilities the IAF MiG-21s had claimed four Pakistani F-104s, two F-6s, one F-86 Sabre and a Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Pak Mirage IIIs decided discretion was the better part of valour and stayed clear of our redoubtable lady. Ironically the Mig-21's first kill came against another Mig product - a product Mig-21 directly replaced, the Chinese Mig-19 (Chengdu F). The pin-point accurate attack on the Governor's House at Dhaka by IAF pilots flying the MiG-21s, providing close air support to the Army, grounded the PAF in East Pakistan by rendering its runways unusable; proved to be a turning point in the war forcing the adversary to negotiate an eventual surrender.
India approached many aeronautical companies with an aim of modernizing its Mig-21, including American companies which suggested equipping the aircraft with F404 engines and a radar AN/APG-66, like that of F-16. Finally, the Western solutions proved too expensive. In May 1994, India signed a contract with Mikoyan and Sokol to modernize 100 Mig-21 hunters with the Mig-21-93 standard. This modernization included, however, certain equipment and Western systems of avionics, in particular a system of inertial navigation SAGEM, a advanced alarm system EWS-A or EWS-21 of Dassault Electronique and a Carapace jammer. Mikoyan proposed in option a choice of engines, such as the TJR-25-300 of a push of 69,65 kN, a derivative of the RD-33 used by the Mig. India chooses this option to modernize 70 other apparatuses, while the Indian Air Force chose the modernization of more than 250 MiG21M, Mig-21 MF and Mig-21. With a cost of 1,33 million dollars, India thus hoped to prolong the life of Mig-21 until 2010 or 2015, or even beyond.
India's assembled & aging (1980-1987 to present) MiG-21 Bis (NATO: "Fishbed-L/N") have been with upgraded to 4th Gen MiG-21-93 / "Bison" standard & formerly known as the MiG-21-93/UPG (the basic difference between the versions is the radar installed). The MiG-21-93 featured an upgrade package complete with Phazotron Kopyo Pulse-Doppler radar, improved avionics and flight control systems, a helmet-mounted target designator and dual-screen HUD (Heads Up Display). The upgrade mainly revolves around the Phazotron Kopyo-M radar and integrated BVR attack capability with R-77 BVRAAMs. The Kopyo radar (' Lance') is a derivative of the Zhuk radar (' Beetle') built for MiG29M, with an antenna smaller punt of radar. The apparatus could also be provided with a detector of emissions Sherloc radar, with a Barem jammer, and even with a French derivative of Kopyo, Thomson-Phazatron Phantom.
The MiG-21-97 was another upgrade package using the Klimov RD-33 engine with improved performance and air-to-air capabilities. As the engines are the same as those on previous variants: a pair of RD-33′s. They are still gas-guzzling and smoky. Other features include a calculator of parameters air, a host computer, a sight assembled on helmet, a VTH, an annular gyrolaser and liquid crystal displays, all of French manufacture. A SURA HMS, a semi-glass cockpit and a Sextant Totem-3000 Ring laser gyro navigation system with GPS.
Note the conformal countermeasure dispensers, the new Tarang RWR's antennae on the tailfin and the single piece windshield. It's loadout includes the not so commonly seen seeker module of the KAB-500Kr TV guided bomb on the centerline pylon not to mention an R-73 training round and an R-77 BVRAAM carried underwing. The aircraft's sophisticated EW suite comprises of a DRDO Tarang RWR/RHAWS, "Tempest" internal Self-protection jammer (SPJ) and the conformal CMDS.
The other new systems were composed mainly of a computer with single mission and a data bus MILLET STD 1553B, of a new system of inventory control, of a system of portable cartridge of data conceived to allow the use of a planning system of modern mission, of a capacity of installation for laser designator, and even of the sight of helmet Elbit DASH. The new systems of avionics are smaller and lighter than the systems than they replace, which made it possible to increase the capacity while carburizing of 200 liters.
IAI would have engaged of the talks with MATRA, the manufacturer of French missiles, which would have had as a result an agreement making it possible the Israeli company to market the air-to-air missile Mica with guidance radar and capacity BVR as a weapon of long range for these hunters improved as well as the Python with infra-red guidance as a weapon of short range of the Mig-21-2000 air-to-air missile.
Now the story: one of the Israel Mossad's (under the command of Meir Ami) most successful operations:-
The Russians began introducing the MiG-21 into the Middle East in 1961. By 1963, when Amit took over the Mossad, it was an essential part of the Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi Air Forces arsenals. The Russians introduced the aircraft under maximum secrecy and security. The Russians "had made it a condition of supplying the aircraft that they should be responsible for security, crew training and maintenance." Few in the West knew much about the MiG-21 - but feared its capabilities.
The Russians, of course, were aware of the risks they were taking by stationing MiG's outside of their own borders in the service of foreign armies. Security was thus extremely tight - and the Russians were often responsible for it. Still, appointment to an MiG-21 squadron "was the highest honor that could be granted to a pilot. These were not the kind of men who could be bribed or would talk loosely in public. They had tried a few times before. Through the services of an Egyptian-born Armenian by the name of Jean Thomas, the Israelis had tried to pay an Egyptian Air Force pilot 1 million dollars to defect to Israel with his MiG-21 in the early 1960's. The pilot refused, Jean Thomas and a number of accomplices were caught, and Thomas and two of his accomplices were hanged in December 1962. Another attempt to convince two Iraqi pilots to defect to Israel didn't work either. But the third attempt did.
Israeli pilots test-flew the MiG-21, entering into mock combat with their own Mirages. The MiG-21 was found to be underpowered, though fairly manoeuvrable at high altitude. The MiG possessed excellent acceleration which was achieved through its small size and aerodynamic refinement rather than through a high-thrust engine. The systems in the cockpit were bulky and unwieldy. The pilot's view of the out-side world was almost completely blocked off, and turning his head sideways was difficult. The Russians believed that the pilot should look forward at all times. Its range was also very limited. It pays a high price in increased drag. The mock air engagements between the modified trainer and Mirage IIIC fighters (having better radar and Shafrir missiles & Mirage's new SNECMA Atar afterburning turbojet was an axial flow turbojet, derived from the German World War II BMW 003 design by the German-French engineer and employee of German BMW and later the French SNECMA, Hermann Oestrich ) demonstrated the marked performance improvements gained with the engine installations. The MiG-21 was also found to be highly susceptible to battle damage, having a tendency to burn or explode after being struck only a few times with 30-mm cannon fire. On the opposite, a Mirage was hit by the Soviet-built Atoll infrared-guided air-to-air missile fired from an Iraqi MiG-21 over an Iraqi airbase where the Mirage was patrolling. The Mirage’s tailpipe suffered extensive damage, but the pilot was able to return to the base.
(Incidently, two captured German World War II BMW-003s powered the prototype of the first Soviet jet, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-9)
In 1967, the Defense Intelligence Agency secretly acquired a single MiG-21. Comparisons between the F-4 and the MiG-21 indicated that, on the surface, they were evenly matched. In the final analysis, it was the skill of the man in the cockpit. A joint air force–navy team was assembled for a series of dogfight tests. The project was code-named ‘Have Doughnut’ and these tests showed this most strongly. When the air force pilots flew the Mig-21, the results were a draw – each fighter would win and lose some fights. There were no clear advantages. The problem was not with the planes, but with the pilots flying them.
F-4 training squadron at NAS Miramar. He was an engineer and a Korean War veteran and had flown almost every navy aircraft. When he flew against the Mig-21, he would outmaneuver it every time. The air force pilots would not go vertical in the Mig-21. Townsend would pull up into a vertical climb, do a roll, as he came over the top, spot the Mig-21, and then line up on its tail. Another navy pilot, Tom Cassidi, was watching as Townsend ‘waxed’ the Mig-21 pilots. Cassidi climbed into the Mig-21 and went up against Townsend’s F-4. This time the result was far different. Cassidi was willing to fight in the vertical to the point where it was buffeting, just above the stall. Cassidi was able to get on the F-4 tail. After the fight, they realized the Mig-21 turned better than the F-4 at lower speeds. The key was for the F-4 to keep its speed up.
Next day they met again. When Townsend spotted the Mig, he lowered the F-4’s nose and pulled into a high-g turn, maintaining a speed of 450 knots. The Mig-21 could not follow and lost speed. Townsend then pulled the Phantom into the vertical. The Mig lacked the energy to follow, and Cassidi dove away. Townsend rolled over the top and pulled behind the Mig-21. Nothing Cassidi did could shake the F-4. Finally, the fight was called off when the Mig ran low on fuel. What had happened was remarkable. The Phantom defeated the Mig; the weakness of the Soviet fighter had been found. But it was also clear that the Mig-21 was a formidable enemy. Its delta wing allows the MiG-21 to turn very well, but the induced drag of that configuration ‘bleeds’ energy rapidly and when MiG-21 turns, it costs. So the trick is to get the MiG-21 down to an altitude below 20,000 feet. That’s where the Phantom really performs well with its wing; it turns and accelerates well. But if you get above 20,000 feet and tangle with a MiG-21, it will chew you to pieces because of the advantages of its wing.
MIG-21 is not a forgiving aircraft, the fatality rates for Indian MiG-21s is about 45-49 percent. Which means that a pilot essentially has a 50-50 chance of surviving an accident. It's not very manoeuvrable and it lands too fast. The design of the window canopy is such that the pilot cannot see the runway properly. For the last four decades, the MiG-21 (now the old birds termed by the media as 'flying coffins') has been the backbone of India’s air defence, both during peace and war. Because of the MIG’s poor safety record, the aircraft has been given grim tags in the public sphere like the “Flying Coffin” and the “Widow Maker.” More than 170 Indian Air Force pilots have been killed in MIG-21 accidents since 1970.
Wing Commander Kaila has alleged in his petition that poor maintenance work executed by the HAL, which manufactured all the domestically made MIG jets, had contributed to the failure of his aircraft. However, labelling it a “flying coffin” is wrong because the “MiG-21s are most in numbers and in use operationally”. Between 1960 and 1987, the German air force flew nearly a thousand F-104s and lost 292. In a similar time frame, the Canadian air force lost over 100 of their 200 Starfighters. Britain’s Royal Air Force pilots, having considerable World War II experience, didn’t fare any better, crashing over a hundred of their 300 Lightnings over a period of 25 years.
The availability of spare parts has also been an area of concern for India’s aging fleet, and the country has looked at various cheaper options in countries like Israel and former Soviet states like Ukraine. Defense authorities in Moscow have previously warned India not to cut corners in purchasing authentic parts. The Russian ambassador in New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin, has said that India should not be surprised if aircrafts meet with accidents if it continues to use spares from outside Russia.
During the earlier part of this decade, the sudden jump for junior pilots from trainer aircrafts like the HAL Kiran, an indigenous jet trainer built in 1964 by Hindustan Aeronautics, to the MIG-21 was seen as too big a change for pilots to cope with. The Kiran, which was a subsonic jet, was unable to prepare young and inexperienced pilots for the raw power of the supersonic MIG. In 2004, India ordered 66 BAE Hawk advanced jet trainers from Britain, with a follow-up order of 57 more aircraft in 2010 to plug the gaps in pilot training.
The MiG-21 wasn’t the IAF’s first choice; it was the Lockheed F-104. The US had provided Pakistan the F-104 jet, but in order not to upset Islamabad it denied India the same aircraft. After being spurned by the western powers, India turned to Russia. Moscow, which was looking for a major buyer, offered India full transfer of technology and rights for local assembly. The Russians supplied the entire production facility – the engine plant was established in Koraput and the fuselage in Kanpur. In 1964 – two years after the PAF got the F-104 – the MiG-21 became the first supersonic fighter jet to enter service with the IAF. By the 1971 war, India had acquired seven MiG squadrons comprising around 100 aircraft.
F-104: Because the F-104 had a t-tail with a high-mounted horizontal section the designers felt that the upward ejection seats of the Fifties would not be able to get the pilot clear in all flight modes. So the unhappy solution of a downward ejection seat was used.
The F-104's thin wings not only have low drag, they are less affected by turbulence. It is the only plane around with the combination of endurance and speed.
Many of the Century Series fighters could super-cruise, though most of those just barely. (As a rule of thumb, any plane which can exceed Mach 2 with afterburner can probably exceed Mach 1 without.) Starfighters with the J79-19 engine can - at altitude - maintain about Mach 1.1 in level flight in military power (maximum throttle without afterburner). This isn't surprising when you realize that the J79 engine was vastly improved during the long production lifetime of the F-104, with later versions producing nearly as much thrust without afterburner as early models did with. Later models had improved J79 engines with better fuel economy, plus increased internal tankage, so they could cruise supersonic for even longer.
Early Starfighters could not exceed Mach 2.2 without potentially damaging the engine; on later models with the -19 engine this was increased to Mach 2.3. The canopy limit is around Mach 2.6. The airframe on late models is stable out to Mach 2.8. As top speed is approached in the F-104 the pilot must throttle back to keep from exceeding the safe limits, unlike almost any other plane. One US Air Force pilot wrote that in his experience the F-104 was the only plane he had ever flown where even the squadron dog could exceed all the red lines. For comparison, the normal top speed of the F-15 is Mach 2.3, with a time-limited pursuit mode of Mach 2.6. It can do this carrying some missiles, but not with drop tanks.
The MiG-15 was one of the first successful swept-wing jet fighters, and it achieved fame in the skies over Korea, where early in the war, it outclassed all straight-winged enemy fighters in most applications. The MiG-15 also served as the starting point for development of the more advanced MiG-17 which was still an effective threat to American fighters during the Vietnam War.
For the next 15 years, Russia was China's biggest arms supplier, providing $20 billion to $30 billion of fighters, destroyers, submarines, tanks and missiles. It even sold Beijing a license to make the Su-27 fighter jet—with imported Russian parts. Few things illustrate this more clearly than the J-11B, a Chinese fighter that Russian officials allege is a direct copy of the Su-27, a one-seat fighter that was developed by the Soviets through the 1970s and 1980s as a match for the U.S. F-15 and F-16. The J-10 is a single-seat, light multi-role fighter based heavily on the cancelled Israeli Lavi program.
China's J-8 is an 18 ton, two engines, variant of the MiG-21. This was China's first attempt at building their own aircraft design. But it was not a very original or successful effort. The J-8 first flew in 1969, and didn't get into service until 1980. It was quickly realized that this was a turkey. It is not a forgiving aircraft, the fatality rates for Indian MiG-21s is about 45-49 percent. Which means that a pilot essentially has a 50-50 chance of surviving an accident. Fewer than 400 were built. The J-8 carries about three tons of bombs, it's not very manoeuvrable and it lands too fast. The design of the window canopy is such that the pilot cannot see the runway properly. China decided to make the most of it, and used the J-8 as a reconnaissance and electronic warfare aircraft. Thus the navy adopted it as well. It was a J-8 that collided with an American EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft off the coast in 2001. The J-8 made the mistake of manoeuvring too close to the much slower (propeller driven) EP-3, and crashed. The EP-3 survived and made an emergency landing in China, kicking off months of diplomatic tension.
- Ye-5 / MiG-21 (NATO "Fishbed-A") - 1956
- Ye-7 / MiG-21F (F = Forsirovannyy or "Updated")
- MiG-21P-13 - 1958 (P = Perekhvatchik or "interceptor")
- MiG-21F-13/PF Type 74/76 (NATO "Fishbed-D") - 1963-66
- MiG-21FL (L = Lokator or "Radar") - 1966-1987. Built under license in India as the Type 77 Trishul ("Trident")
- MiG-21M (M = Modernizirovannyy or "Modernised") - 1968. However in the export version, the RP-22 radar of the MiG-21S was substituted with the older RP-21MA radar, and featured a built-in GSh-23L cannon instead of a cannon pod. Built under license in India as the Type 88.
- MiG-21 PFM (P = Perekhvatchik or "Interceptor") NATO "Fishbed-F" (incorporated all improved features of 21F, 21PF, and 21PFS)
- MiG-21 PFMA (ground attack capability, greater fuel capacity, improved radar, internal 23-mm gun, and 4 under-wing pylons instead of 2) NATO "Fishbed-J". Built under license in India as the Type 98.
- MiG-21SMT (S = Sapfir referring to the Sapfir-21/RP-22 radar and; T = Toplivo or "Fuel," referring to increased fuel capacity) NATO "Fishbed-K"
- MiG-21bis/UB (U = Uchebnyy or "Training") (NATO "Fishbed-L/N")- 1980-1987 - present
- MiG-21 Bison upgraded MiG-29B-present
The Russians often limped behind the Americans in the development of high weapons technology so it is hardly a surprise it took them 10 years and a look at components of F-4s shot down in Vietnam to develop a similar capability in the MiG-23. However, the F-15s never faced MiG-23Ps guided by MiG-31s as Russia had in the early 1980s or when the Su-27s would have covered the MiG-29s in the late 1980s.
The MiG-23MLD lacks an integrated or pod-mounted ECM (electronic countermeasures) system for self-protection -a great disadvantage in combat against the F-15A, F16A, F-4E and the Kfir C.2, which all boast state-of-the-art ECM gear. The only self-protection gear on the MiG-23MLD is the PKiBP-23 (KDS-23M) chaff/flare dispenser comprising two six-round downward-firing units built-in to the centreline pylon. The VVS-FA Flogger-Ks' self-protection is enhanced by two BVP-50-60 50-round chaff/flare dispensers mounted in long slim housings on top of the centre fuselage. Syrian MiG-23MLDs received additional chaff/flare dispensers, (probably installed in the mid/late 1980s) installed on the rear fuselage.
Perhaps the most important point in the chapter on BVR combat deals with the importance of the initial attack: "In order to achieve surprise in shooting, MiG-23MLD pilots should exploit all of their [accumulated] experience and aggressiveness in the first attack." This is considered a critical factor, as the element of surprise has proved to be nine-tenths of air combat success, both offensive and defensive. High-speed, highly agile fighters such as the MiG-23 have the option of engaging or disengaging at will, even in the all-aspect BVR and WVR missile environment which typified 1980s and 1990s air combat.
Basically it seems to me that much of the MiG-23's bad reputation is based on it's use in third world conflicts by badly trained pilots. It was often operated outside of the kind of integrated air defence system in which it was expected to operate by the designers. In addition many of the MiG-23s flown during these engagement were either strikers or severely downgraded fighter variants such as the MiG-23MS. Pilot and "helmsman" on the ground did communicate and the "helmsman" did order what do. The "helmsman" on the ground did read the "battle", but was in need of constant visual reports from the shooter too. Such a system is effective, but can be overtaxed easily. Western pilots do listen to the wing-mates at first, when the ground control did still allow the pilots to operate independently most of the time. The difference in the soviet doctrine is that the guy leading the ground crew had seniority over the pilot. In western doctrine the pilot is ultimately responsible for the machine therefore has the onus on his shoulders to make the right decisions based on his best information. Neither doctrine really allows for renegade behavior.
The MiG-27 needed plenty of work. Equipment that went into the upgrade included a HUD and a full colour high definition display (HDD). The core of the upgrade involved two new pieces of computer equipment in the Flogger's nose bay. A new laser ranger replaced the old KLEN system. The main nav sensor, the INGPS along with VOR/ILS were also located in the nose bay. The new electronic warfare suite included a new radar warning receiver, an ELTA podded jammer and counter-measures dispenser system (CMDS). The upgraded aircraft was also made capable of carrying a laser designation pod and a photo recce pod.
Cutting down time taken to plan a mission was a high priority under the upgrade terms. The IAF's Software Development Institute (SDI) was roped in to develop a brand new mission planning system (MPS), which brought down mission planning time from 2-3 hours to about 30 minutes. A data-transfer unit was also conceived, to transfer RWR pre-flight messages (PFM) and MPS data straight to the aircraft -- a common function on modern fighters, but a breath of truly fresh air for the lumbering MiG-27. The system does, however, have a shortcoming - PFMs for the ELTA self-protection jammer and INCOM R/T crystallisation cannot be loaded through the DTU and still have to be fed directly into the aircraft.
The upgraded cockpit was a true legacy leap. Livefist reported earlier on the dramatic comparison of the MiG-27 cockpit, before and after upgrade. The upgraded cockpit is, as DARE puts it, "neater, de-cluttered and much more functionally ergonomic as compared to the non-upgrade cockpit". No argument with that. The RWR and CMDS were placed in the pilot's primary field of vision. An indigenous MFD displayed maps, horizontal situation and laser pod video. With time required to feed in date pre-mission reduced by a factor of four, and less time for alignment, the time for launch was brought down dramatically.
What, in effect, the MiG-27 upgrade has made possible is substantially reduced the pilot's workload. He no longer has to pay as much attention to navigation as he used to, situational awareness is no longer a daunting challenge even while flying at low levels and routine tasks have been shifted off the pilot's plate, allowing him to focus less on flying and more on tactics and the mission at hand. Target acquisition is also remarkably more efficient and intuitive now. Targets can now be acquired even in the dark night laser designator pod video, and since this involves head-down work, HUD symbology is overlaid over the video. Little things like this have transformed the MiG-27 mission experience. Pilots can now also leave the flying to the auto-pilot, now fully integrated in the auto-nav and auto-attack modes. The centre of the display has been designed to be un-cluttered to allow pilots to easily locate and identify the target. The sensor is slewable too. Overall, a substantially improved nav-attack system. For example, in a CCIP dive, a manoeuver that required every last shred of the pilot's attention, now has very accurate sights catering for the aircraft's changing parameters and allowing the pilot to monitor terminal air defence activity, managing the ECM suite and managing overall situational awareness.
The upgrade has given the MiG-27 new modes of attack, including CCRP, CCIP memory and Target of Opportunity -- these have given pilots the flexibility to attack planned and unplanned targets with equal efficacy. On the upgraded MiG-27, virtually attack parameters can be adjusted with a flick of a control switch now, and will no longer involve untimely sweats in the cockpit.
Weapon accuracy was a real concern. During upgrade trials, an upgraded MiG-27 conducted an HALR laser-pod assisted drop of a 500-kg dumb bomb from 7.5-km. Its missed distance was 15-metres. This was a dumb bomb, not a PGM.
The MiG-27s electronic warfare suite underwent many substantial changes. For starters, the front antennae of the Tarang 1B radar warning receiver (RWR) were moved from the wing leading edges to the nose, removing the earlier problem of masking which has apparently plagued the Tarang experience in virtually every other aircraft it has been used on. Incidentally, the upgraded MiG-27 is now the only aircraft in the Indian inventory that provides true 360-degrees, mask-free RWR cover. The self-protection jammer and countermeasures dispensing system (CMDS) can now be auto-cued by the RWR, and the new integrated display provides, for the first time on the MiG-27, a perfectly clear picture of the electronic orbit around the aircraft.
The upgrade comprises: increased range and payload, new glass cockpit, digital fly-by-wire control system, new avionics, improved radar, KOLS infrared search and track (IRST) and an in-flight refueling probe. The radar will be the Phazotron Zhuk-ME, which is capable of tracking ten targets to a maximum range of 245km. The upgrade program will fit the navy MiGs with phased array radar (PESA) and in-flight fueling capability. Thales TopSight-E helmet-mounted sight and display (HMDS) is being fitted to aircraft for the Indian Navy. Integration phase of the upgrade encompassing ejection seats, weapon delivery and navigation system was completed in November 2009. Thales will also supply TOTEM 3000 Inertial Navigation and GPS.
It had a CSF radar system with a retractable antenna dome in its belly. The cockpit accommodated a crew of three, including pilot, radar operator, and sensor operator. The pilot was seated in front on the left, the navigator in front on the right, and the sensor operator sat sideways behind them. The landing gear was of tricycle configuration, with the main gear retracting backwards into nacelles in the wings.
The Indian Navy operated the Alizé from shore bases and from the light carrier Vikrant. The Alizé was used for reconnaissance and patrol during India's 1961 invasion of Portuguese controlled Goa, and was also used for ASW patrol during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, during which one Alizé was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force F-104 Starfighter. It was also instrumental in taking out many gunboats unopposed during the war. The Alizé dwindled in numbers in the Indian Navy during the 1980s, was relegated to shore-based patrol in 1987, and was finally phased out in 1991, replaced in its duties by ASW helicopters.
Although the Harrier has only one jet engine (due to weight restriction), it has four rotating nozzles (pus two small roll control jets in the wingtips) that direct the powerful jet engine vector-thrust downwards for vertical lift. This arrangement is sometimes referred to as the "four-poster" since each nozzle produces one "post" that lifts the aircraft while in hover. However, due to this the engine must be located near the center of gravity.
45 years ago, in 1966, the Royal Air Force ordered its first Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the GR 1, and few who were living at the time would have imagined the short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) Harrier would still be serving more than four decades later.
India operates the 30 of the British-origin FRS.Mk.132 version from two of their carriers from 1983 onwards and Italy and Spain operate the American AV-8B Harrier II plus version primarily in an air defence role. By 2006 it was clear that withdrawal of Sea Harriers from Royal Navy lead to a lack of spares coming from Britain. Indian Navy has only 11 “air frames” are left now due to old age, lack of spares and cannibalisation as well as accidents over the years.
Britain refused to sell these jets with Ferranti ARI.50019 Blue Vixen radar. When UK showed no interest in sending a proposal to upgrade Indian Navy operated Sea Harriers, then India and Isreal teamed up, to come up with Limited Upgrade Sea Harrier (LUSH) program which saw Israeli Derby Missile and Elta EL/M 2032 radar used to upgrade 16 Sea Harriers with non-OEM support.
An American-British development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and Sea Harrier. The AV-8B V/STOL strike aircraft was designed to replace the AV-8A and the A-4M light attack aircraft. The Marine Corps requirement for a V/STOL light attack force has been well documented since the late 1950's.
The AV-8A, followed in the 1980s by the Harrier II, produced by a partnership between McDonnell Douglas (later part of Boeing) and British Aerospace (now BAE Systems). Along with the Royal Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps, the first-generation Harrier flew for the Spanish navy, Royal Thai navy, Indian navy, and most famously for the Royal Navy.
The last aircraft remanufactured to the Harrier II Plus configuration was delivered in December 2003. This marked the end of the Harrier production line.
It is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, and is typically operated from small aircraft carriers, large amphibious assault ships and austere forward operating bases. Combining tactical mobility, responsiveness, reduced operating cost and basing flexibility, both afloat and ashore, V/STOL aircraft are particularly well-suited to the special combat and expeditionary requirements of the Marine Corps. The AV-8BII+ features the APG-65 Radar common to the F/A-18, as well as all previous systems and features common to the AV-8BII.
The Sea Harrier was marketed for sales abroad, but by 1983 India was the only operator other than Britain after sales to Argentina and Australia were unsuccessful.
A second, updated version for the Royal Navy was made in 1993 as the Sea Harrier FA2, improving its air to air abilities and weapons compatibilities, along with a more powerful engine; this version continued manufacture until 1998.
The aircraft was withdrawn early from Royal Navy service in March 2006 and replaced in the short term by the Harrier GR9, now itself retired, although the intended long term replacement is Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II.
The Sea Harrier is in active use in the Indian Navy, although it will eventually be replaced by the Mikoyan MiG-29K.
On the contrary, Lockheed Martin has opted for an augmented fan arrangement for the F-35. Inspired by the Russian Yak-141, the X-35 utilizes two separate engines. The primary power-plant is a jet engine that provides the thrust for forward flight. In hover, this engine not only drives a separate lift fan located near the center of the aircraft, but the single nozzle on the main engine also rotates downward to provide additional lift. As with the Harrier and X-32, the X-35 is also equipped with two small roll control nozzles in the wingtips. Although this option requires two engines and the lift fan is nothing but dead weight when in forward flight, this arrangement allows much greater flexibility in the overall layout of the aircraft.
Since 1976, the Yak-38 ‘Forger’ has been Moscow’s equivalent of the famous Harrier, but uses three powerplants instead of the Harrier’s one for vectored-thrust performance. The vertical take-off jet was designed to spring from the decks of ‘Kiev’-class carriers to defend the Russian fleet from Western patrol aircraft and saw service on Russia’s last ‘Kiev’ carrier, Gorshkov.
The Yak-38 gave the Soviet navy experience with high-performance jets at sea, and was a useful stepping stone towards the fixed-wing naval fighters now coming into service with the Russian navy.
The first drawings showed a supersonic aircraft strongly resembling the Hawker P.1154 in study in the United Kingdom, but with two R27-300 engines. In the 1970s the British Aerospace Sea Harrier was developed from the Harrier for use by the Royal Navy (RN) on Invincible-class aircraft carriers. The Sea Harrier and the Harrier fought in the 1982 Falklands War, in which the aircraft proved to be crucial and versatile. The RN Sea Harriers provided fixed-wing air defence while the RAF Harriers focused on ground-attack missions in support of the advancing British land force. The Harrier was also extensively redesigned as the AV-8B Harrier II and British Aerospace Harrier II by the team of McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace.
In the 1980s, the Soviets were hungry for a versatile carrier jet, one that could go beyond the role of simple interception and fleet defence. Alexander Sergeyevich Yakovlev put at least 10 of his chief designers on what the military had originally called the Yak-41.
Yakovlev never thought it had a lasting fighter aircraft in its Yak-38, the Soviet Union’s first fixed-wing carrier jet and the only production Soviet VTOL aircraft. More than 50 designs would be looked at before the team set its sights on a single-engine design with a vectoring nozzle and thrust jets behind the cockpit. The extreme temperatures that came with thrust vectoring and VTOL meant the plane had to be built with materials that could stack up, so titanium, graphite, and composites were chosen. Even so, the plane was not meant to hover for more than 2.5 minutes because of overheating worries.
Four prototypes were funded, and the Yak-41 made its first flight in 1987 at Zhukovskii. Two years later, the first successful hover flight test took place. The Soviets used the Yak-141 designation to throw off observers, as the program was classified a the time. In September 1991, the first successful vertical landing on a Soviet aircraft carrier took place. The Yak-41 would become the first VSTOL aircraft to achieve sustained supersonic flight. The program was a success except for one incident where a fuel tank ruptured during a hard landing in October, resulting in a fire and the ejection of the pilot.
Despite the successes, funding ran out for the program, and the government-in-flux did not order the Yak-41 into production. The problem was the Yak-38’s lack of combat capability. Yes, it could take off and land vertically, and transition between vertical to horizontal flight, a significant achievement. Unfortunately, its payload was derisory and its range pathetic, its air-to-air capability virtually non-existent. One reason was the Forger’s VTOL concept – while the Harrier had a single engine and could use all its thrust for horizontal or vertical flight, the Yak-38 had to lug two lift engines, dead weight at all other times than in vertical flight. In hot and high conditions (such as the combat evaluation it endured in Afghanistan), the Forger could carry less than 500lb of munitions. As a proof of concept vehicle, the Yak-38 only managed to ‘prove’ that VTOL combat aircraft were impractical. If only the Harrier had not disproved the point over the Falklands, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan.
What happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union? An American company came around in 1991 and was able to glean valuable insight from a proposed Russian fighter jet for what would one day become the F-35. In 1991, facing the end of the “Freestyle’s” program run, Yakovlev approached several foreign aircraft companies for help funding and developing the airplane. A similar tactic worked with Aermacchi with the Yak-130 trainer leading to the successful Alenia Aermacchi M-346 “Master.”
Lockheed Martin, unable to obtain the British short takeoff/vertical landing technology used in the “Harrier” because of British Aerospace’s long-standing partnership with McDonnell Douglas, was already researching ideas for what would become the X-35. Lockheed Martin knew the Yak-41 technology was good, so the company signed a $400 million pact with Yakovlev to built three more Yak-141 prototypes. (By this time, Yakovlev had committed to using the 141 designation instead of Yak-41.)
In the end the Lockheed Martin X-35 beat the Boeing X-32 to become the US’s largest weapons program of all time.
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk was a marvelous combat plane: tough and able to take punishment. More than 29 variants of the Skyhawk were used by the United States Navy and Marines, and it received further modifications while serving with foreign countries. It was especially effective for Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Oddly enough, some of the A-4's most important service came in two noncombat arenas. First, it served as the official aircraft of the Blue Angels, the Navy aerial demonstration team, where its aerobatic ability was legendary. Then it operated in the Navy's Top Gun program as an "enemy" fighter because its small size, maneuverability, and speed made it a good stand-in for the Soviet MiG-21 in mock combat. In peace and in war, there was no substitute for the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.
Accepted into Navy and Marine Corps service in 1956, the Skyhawk was so small that it did not require folding wings for parking on aircraft carriers. The A-4 was the pioneer of the buddy air- to-air refueling concept allowing the aircraft to dispense fuel to other aircraft during flight instead of using a large tanker aircraft. The Mig-21 and A4 Skyhawk were the first supersonic fighter to use the tailed delta layout which became hugely popular with other fighter designs. In one form or another, and in varying degrees of fidelity, this design has been implemented on the F-15, F-16, F-22, F-35, and many others.
- A4D (A-4) Skyhawk was designed as conventional/nuclear strike/attack aircraft.
- A4D-2N (A-4C): Enhanced with night/adverse weather version of A4D-2, with AN/APG-53A radar, autopilot, LABS low-altitude bombing system. Powered by Wright J65-W-20.
Upgraded Boeing (Douglas) A-4 Skyhawk is a compact, delta-winged, carrier-capable ground-attack/multi-role aircraft.
The Singaporean A4SU (broadly modified and upgraded version of the TA-4S & TA-4S-1 to TA-4SU standard) "Super Skyhawk" upgrade included a new engine to replace the old and underpowered J65 turbojets. A non-after-burning General Electric F404-GE-100D turbofan was selected. The new engine necessitated some changes to the inlet to be made, along with fitting new engine mounts, air turbine starter, hydraulic pumps, refrigeration units and oil cooler.
The US A4D-5 (A-4E) "Ultimate Skyhawk II" had an all new enlarged canopy for better visibility. The other upgrades involved replacing the outdated avionics on the aircraft which is the "fuselage hump" behind the cockpit running along the dorsal spine.
MiG-21M Fishbed-J (Type 88 which in India is in service as Type 96) are being decommissioned. (M = Modernizovannyy i.e. "Modernised"). They are same as China's Chengdu J-7.
At the height of the Cold War, a Soviet response was necessary to avoid the possibility of a new American fighter becoming a serious technological advantage over existing Soviet fighters, thus the development of a new air superiority fighter became a priority. In 1971 Soviet studies determined the need for different types of fighters. The MiG-29 (light-weight category), along with the heavy Sukhoi Su-27, was developed to counter new American fighters such as the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The MiG-29, -30 and -33 are known by the Nato code name Fulcrum. The MiG-29 is built largely out of aluminium with some composite materials. It has a mid-mounted swept wing with blended leading-edge root extensions swept at around 40°. There are swept tail-planes and two vertical fins, mounted on booms outboard of the engines. Automatic slats are mounted on the leading edges of the wings. On the trailing edge, there are maneuvering flaps and wingtip ailerons. The apparatus also had a greater number of electromagnetic and infra-red chaff launchers on the roots of the wings, of a windshield of only one part, system of aiming gone up on helmet of Mig-29 and a better capacity of cooling thanks to the use of a new system of air conditioning. It has superb aerodynamics and helmet mounted sight. Even against the latest Block 50 F-16s the MiG-29 is virtually invulnerable in the close-in scenario. At the time of its deployment, it was one of the first jet fighters in service capable of executing the Pugachev Cobra manoeuvre.
The MiG-29 is equipped with two RD-33 series-3 turbofan engines. The series 1 & 2 are no longer in production. The MiG-29 is the world's first aircraft fitted with dual-mode air intakes. During flight, the open air intakes feed air to the engines. (The latest Mig-29 is equipped with RD-33MK engine with 7% higher thrust, is digitally controlled FADEC and incorporates infrared and optical signature visibility reduction systems). HAL licence assembles 120 of these engines from Russian-made knock-down RD-33 series-3 kits. HAL has also developed an overhaul technology for the KSA-2 accessory gearbox of this engine.
The aircraft has a limited range, in line with the original Soviet requirements for a point-defense fighter. Although MiG-29s in reality have never been very effective in air battles, that's mainly due to poor pilot ability, or as in Iraq's case, being greatly outnumbered in battle. General lessons learned from this first out-of-country operation of a Russian front line fighter were:
- The principal weakness of Mig-29 and other Russian hunters of fourth generation lay in the mediocrity of the ergonomics of the cockpit, the primitive character of posting, the lack of capacity and speed of treatment, and in the design of the software of the system of control. It is in these fields that the Russians were late compared to the Western countries, and it is what allowed the Western companies which hoped to modernize the Migone to take the top on the manufacturers of the apparatus themselves. Mikoyan was not long in realizing that the prospective customers were likely to show not very inclined to use the Russian avionics and the electronics component and started to offer French systems. The co-operation with the French companies had started with the program MiG AT.
- The MiG-29 had intensive problems in operation and maintenance since its induction due to premature failure of engines, components, and systems. Engines had to be continually sent to manufacturers abroad at great monetary cost, reduction of one-half total life, and a significant stretch of schedule.
- Non-availability of critical radar components and spares resulted in the grounding of significant numbers of aircraft. Non-serviceability of computers and the inability to fix them cost excessive amounts of money to rectify. The lack of nose wheel mud guards had to be solved by importing upgrade kits and expensive local re-design after material deficiencies could not be overcome.
- The employment of the MiG-29 suffers from severe inherent constraints. The most obvious limitation is the aircraft’s limited internal fuel capacity of 3500-kg (4400 kg with a centreline tank). We have no air-to-air refuelling capability, and our external tank is both speed and manoeuvre limited. If we start a mission with 4400-kg of fuel, start-up, taxy and take off takes 400-kg, we need to allow 1000-kg for diversion to an alternate airfield 50-nm away, and 500-kg for the engagement, including one minute in afterburner. That leaves 2500-kg. If we need 15 minutes on station at 420 kts that requires another 1000-kg, leaving 1500-kg for transit. At FL200 (20,000 ft) that gives us a radius of 150-nm, and at FL100 (10,000 ft) we have a radius of only 100-nm.
- It suffer from poor presentation of the radar information (which leads to poor situational awareness and identification problems), short BVR weapons range, a bad navigation system and short on- station times. Navigation system is unreliable as it relies on triangulation from three TACAN stations, and if you lose one, you effectively lose the system. The radar is at least a generation behind the AN/APG-65, and is not line-repairable. If we have a radar problem, the aircraft goes back into the hangar. The radar has a poor display, giving poor situational awareness, and this is compounded by the cockpit ergonomics. The radar has reliability problems and lookdown/shootdown problems. There is poor discrimination between targets flying in formation, and we can’t lock onto the target in trail, only onto the lead.
MiG-29K (Fulcrum-D) is a drastically modified and navalized (carrier-capable using arrested recovery) light multi-role version of Mig-29M (formerly known as the "MiG-33") light, defensive, air-superiority fighter. There are only two fighters in the world capable of operations from a short take-off but arrested recovery, (a system used for launch and recovery from a short deck like the Vikramaditya) and they are the single-engined MiG-29K and twin-engined Su-33. However, the serviceability of MiG 29K is unsatisfactory, ranging from 15.93% to 37.63%, and that of MiG 29KUB (the trainer version), ranging from 15.93% to 37.63%. MiG-29K is riddled with problems relating to the airframe, RD MK-33 engine and fly-by-wire system.
The MiG-29M is sometimes called the Super Fulcrum. They were constantly upgraded with various components and one received experimental vector thrust engines which eventually became the MiG-29OVT. The model was again renamed as MiG-29M.
The MiG-29K differed considerably from the MiG-29 production model, featuring a new multi-function radar, dubbed Zhuk; a cockpit with monochrome display and use of the HOTAS (hands-on-throttle-and-stick) principle; the RVV-AE air-to-air active homing missiles; anti-ship and anti-radar missiles; as well as air-to-ground precision-guided weapons. To protect the engine from FOD, the engine inlets were fitted with retractable grills instead of the LERX louvres used by land-based MiG-29s. The MiG-29K, unlike the early MiG-29, can both conduct aerial refueling and "buddy" refuel other aircraft. The project was put on hold because the Russian Navy preferred the Su-27K and with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Navy only pursued the rival Su-33.
The programme got a boost in the late 1990s to meet an Indian requirement for a ship-borne fighter following the purchase of a former Soviet aircraft carrier. Modifications were made to the MiG-29K for Indian requirements, including the Zhuk-ME radar, RD-33MK engine, a combat payload up to 5,500 kg, 13 hard-points, and updated 4-channel digital fly-by-wire flight control system. It is compatible with the full range of weapons carried by the MiG-29M and MiG-29SMT.
India was the first international customer of the MiG-29. The Indian Air Force (IAF) placed an order for more than 50 MiG-29s in 1980 while the aircraft was still in its initial development phase. Since its induction into the IAF in 1985, the aircraft has undergone a series of modifications with the addition of new avionics, subsystems, turbofan engines and radars. The MiG-29SMT is an upgrade package of the first-generation MiG-29s (9.12 to 9.13) containing many enhancements intended for the MiG-29M. The Mig-29SMT is therefore an upgraded version of the Mig-29SM, and has new avionics, can carry more (and newer) types of weapons, and has an increased range. Its development began in 1997. Visually, the main difference between the Mig-29SMT and its predecessors is the “hump” on its back, which houses two internal fuel tanks. The Mig-29SMT can carry a total of up to 6,100 liters of fuel internally.
After landing, technicians download logs which contain information about the status of the aircraft’s systems. An interesting fact about the Mig-29SMT is that it is the first aircraft in Russia which will be serviced and repaired not on a calendar schedule, but based on its actual state. This approach will significantly reduce operating costs. Besides increasing the service life from 4,000 to 6,000 hours, this also leads to a decrease in the cost of flying hours by 40% and an increase in the aircraft’s “cost effectiveness” by 3.3 times when compared to its predecessors.
In April 1997, the Israeli television reported that a MiG-29 fighter from an unnamed country was in Israel "to check the compatibility of various weapon systems." Elta had won an $80 million tender to supply electronic warfare tools to India's MiG-21s. Indian air force had bought a sophisticated Air Combat Manoeuvring Instrumentation (ACMI) system from Israel for developing air combat tactics. Described as the "first major defence purchase" from Israel, the ACMI was installed at the high security Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE), located at Jamnagar air base. India signed a $960 million contract with Russia in 2008 to upgrade its five squadrons of 69 MiG-29 fighters, which have been in service with the Indian Air Force (IAF) since mid-1980s. In 2007, Russia also sold India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) a license to manufacture 120 RD-33 series 3 turbojet engines for the upgrade.
On 14 March 2002, a momentous tripartite agreement was signed between the Indian Air Force, HAL and DARE. The prime agency for the upgrade was DARE, with HAL as the joint agency. Regional Centres for Military Airworthiness (RCMAs) and CEMILAC were also involved. The team knew it needed to work fast -- this was a litmus test of what a fully Indian upgrade programme could achieve in a short time. For starters, to reduce development time, the team resorted to concurrent engineering and began using proven hardware and software modules common to the Su-30MKI and Jaguar NAVWASS programme. To save flight test and evaluation time, two prototype upgraded aircraft were made, according to a detailed presentation on the upgrade by project director P.M. Soundar Rajan of DARE. The development methodology was rigorous but efficient, with multiple agencies breaking a lot of institutional barriers to work together like they never had before.
The MiG-29K/KUB carrier-based fighters are the basic aircraft of a new unified family including also the MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-35/MiG-35D aircraft.
The MiG-29K/KUB carrier-based fighters are the basic aircraft of a new unified family including also the MiG-29M/M2 and MiG-35/MiG-35D aircraft, and they incorporated all the best designer achievements and innovations of earlier developed MiG-29K and MiG-29M.
Lessons learned from this first out-of-country operation of a Russian front line fighter were:
1. The MiG-29 had intensive problems in operation and maintenance since its induction due to premature failure of engines, components, and systems. 74% of the engines failed within five years, were out of supply pipeline for three years, and reduced aircraft availability by 15, to 20%. This led to a decision to restrict flying efforts and therefore compromised operational and training commitments.
2. There were significant shortfalls in the performance of the MiG-29 fleet resulting in operational and training inadequacies. The shortfall ranged from 20 to 65% in respect to combat aircraft availability and 58 to 84% in trainers between 1987 - 1991.
3. There was a mismatch between induction of the aircraft (1987) and the establishment of its repair facilities (end of 1994). Until that time engines had to be continually sent to manufacturers abroad at great monetary cost, reduction of one-half total life, and a significant stretch of schedule.
4. Non-availability of critical radar components and spares resulted in the grounding of significant numbers of aircraft. Five aircraft were out of action for over six months while two were in the hanger for over two years. Unserviceability of computers and the inability to fix them cost excessive amounts of money to rectify.
5. The pilot debrief Ground Data Processing Unit, imported at high cost, was left lying around unserviceable and unused since its reception in August 1990.
6. The lack of nose wheel mud guards had to be solved by importing upgrade kits and expensive local re-design after material deficiencies could not be overcome.
There were extensive problems encountered in operational and maintenance due to the large number of pre-mature failures of engines, components, and systems. Of the total of 189 engines in service, 139 engines (74%) failed pre-maturely and had been withdraw from service by July 1992, thus effectively shutting down operations. 62 of these engines had not even accomplished 50% of their 300 hours first overhaul point. Thus the desired serviceability showed a steadily decreasing trend.
Engineering reports mainly attribute RD-33 failures to design/material deficiencies causing discolored engine oil (8), cracks in the nozzle guide vanes (31), and surprisingly, foreign object damage (FOD). The eight material deficient engines (discolored oil) were repaired by the contractor under warrantee provisions, but the engines had to be recycled to the manufacturer. The thirty-one engines with cracks in their nozzle guide vanes were fixed in the field by contractor teams and adjustments were made to the entire engine fleet. But even though the incidents reduced the occurrences of the cracks, they continued. But the FOD situation is the most interesting, especially after the inlet FOD doors received world press coverage, but there were other concerns about production quality control that led to problems.
Since the Indian Air Force received early model Fulcrum A's, some just after the 200th production article, there were quality control deficiencies that resulted in numerous pieces of FOD (foreign object damage) and tools being left behind after final construction inside of the aircraft. Remember that the Fulcrum skeleton is made first and then the skin is riveted over top, in the way aircraft were made in the fifties and sixties in the West. Nuts, bolts, tools, etc. all made their way to the engine bays and inlet ducts and when they were loosened up after accelerations they damaged engines and equipment.
On top of all this, it was discovered that the unique FOD doors on the MiG-29's inlets were not stopping material from getting into the engine ducts. Since the doors retracted "up" into the inlet, debris that was kicked up by the nose wheel lodged on or at the bottom of the door seal and then was ingested into the engine when the door opened during the nose gear lifted off the ground during takeoff.
In 2016 Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (RAC MiG) will implement the second contract for delivery of 29 carrier-based MiG-29K/KUB fighters to India. The upgraded MiG-29K/KUB carrier-based fighters are equipped with RD-33MK engines which has 7% higher thrust, is digitally controlled FADEC and incorporates infrared and optical signature visibility reduction systems. It can be equipped with Klimov’s proprietary thrust vectoring nozzle.
The upgraded MiG-29K/KUB carrier-based fighter is a worthy platform, but it doesn’t quite deliver what the Indian Navy needs from deck-based squadron, notably endurance.
In a disclosure in Parliament, Defence Minister A. K. Antony said the MiG-29 is structurally flawed in that it has a tendency to develop cracks due to corrosion in the tail fin. Russia has shared this finding with India, which emerged after the crash of a Russian Air Force MiG-29 in December 2008.
Indian MiG-29s were used extensively during the 1999 Kargil War in Kashmir by the Indian Air Force to provide fighter escort for Mirage 2000s, which were attacking targets with laser-guided bombs. According to Indian sources, two MiG-29s from the IAF's No. 47 squadron (Black Archers) gained missile lock on two F-16s of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) which were patrolling close to the border to prevent any incursions by Indian aircraft, but did not engage them because no official declaration of war had been issued. The Indian MiG-29s were armed with beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles whereas the Pakistani F-16s were not.
The Mig-29SMT is an upgraded version of the Mig-29SM, and has new avionics, can carry more (and newer) types of weapons, and has an increased range. Its development began in 1997. Visually, the main difference between the Mig-29SMT and its predecessors is the “hump” on its back, which houses two internal fuel tanks. The Mig-29SMT can carry a total of up to 6,100 liters of fuel internally.
After landing, technicians download logs which contain information about the status of the aircraft’s systems. An interesting fact about the Mig-29SMT is that it is the first aircraft in Russia which will be serviced and repaired not on a calendar schedule, but based on its actual state. This approach will significantly reduce operating costs. Besides increasing the service life from 4,000 to 6,000 hours, this also leads to a decrease in the cost of flying hours by 40% and an increase in the aircraft’s “cost effectiveness” by 3.3 times when compared to its predecessors.
"I'm fed up of the to-and-fro between us and the builders of the LCA. I'm willing to accept the aircraft right now, as is. I am willing to commit my pilots to start clocking numbers on this machine. We need to spend time learning about it, not fighting about it. I am willing to make that commitment." IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy was on his way into retirement.
Light Combat Aircraft Mark-1A+ (“Standard of Preparation - 2018”) Tejas (meaning “Radiance/Speedy”) is a lightweight, tailless, compound delta wing, multi-role, single-seat jet fighter with "relaxed static stability" design & equipped with a quad-ruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system. Its capable of at least 3 missions per day.
HAL is now developing a new variant, LCA-1P, equipped with Modern AESA radar along with electronic warfare (EW) systems. This single-engine, compound-delta-wing, tailless aircraft is developed to satisfy the diverse needs of the aircraft-centric Indian Air Force who are in need of high-quantity, long-range interceptors.
It can reach a speed of Mach 1.6 and can operate up to an altitude of 15 Km. The Angle of Attack (AoA) of 26 degrees has also been achieved, with the actual requirement being 24 degrees. 103 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft would have come in, leaving the light fighter segment with just 5 squadrons, where as it need another 6 more squadrons.
It is false to date the start of the LCA project to 1983, as is commonly done; the project really began a decade later. In 1983, the LCA was allocated Rs 560 crore for “feasibility studies and project definition”, and for creating developmental infrastructure.
Only in 1993 was development funding allocated (Rs 2,188 crore, including the Rs 560 crore allocated in 1983). This was for building two “technology demonstrators”. In June 1993, the government had emphasised on increasing the indigenous content of the LCA while sanctioning FSED in a phased manner, but ADA did not make any roadmap for indigenisation during LCA development. As a result, indigenous content of the LCA estimated by ADA as 70 % actually worked out to about 59.7% by value. While the imported might seem fairly low, those components are the core of what makes a fighter a fighter. Only the control system and airframe are indigenous.
In 20 December 2013 - LCA mk1 successfully achieved IOC-2. Tejas took just eight years to fly, and 23 years for “final operational certification” (FOC) which is anticipated by March 2016. This is comparable with international timelines for fighter aircraft development.
The LCA mk2 will be a naval design and not a derivative from the air force version. It is to be developed to satisfy the strategic reality today of weapon and sensor-centric warfare.
An interim solution for the IAF has finally been found, the IAF is ordering 120 (six squadrons) the Tejas Mark 1A light fighter (SoP-18), though this name has not been officially allocated; triple of 40 aircraft it had previously committed to buying. The Mark 1A interceptor has low internal fuel storage, hence, it will have a mid-air refueling probe to enhance its endurance and operational range. 20% waivers have also been granted. The defence ministry calculates that an order of 100 Tejas is essential to keep it working to capacity till 2022-23.
This first LCA squadron was to be based in the southern tip of India (near Sri Lanka) and far from any likelihood of combat. It will be years, if ever, before India is confident enough in LCA to station any of them on the Pakistani or Chinese border.
Some of the changes made on the final Mk1 are:
According to the the CAG report, this decision of ADA rendered the prototypes deficient of critical onboard systems and led to ADA using the Limited Series Production aircraft towards flight testing/evaluation of these critical onboard systems, in contravention to the commitment given to for the building of these aircraft. The Tejas still has 19 unresolved issues – including nose wheel vibrations, high noise level in the cockpit.
The earlier SP-series Tejas Mk1s were not MRCAs, due to their sub-optimal radar warning receivers (unresolvable EMI issues) and lack of self-protection jammers. It has a sub-optimal radar warning receivers (due to unresolvable EMI issues). The self-protection jammer which was originally to be fitted on LCA Mark-I, but it lacks the space for one. Consequently,they were not ‘combat survivable’ inside hostile airspace and will therefore be not be used for tactical interdiction missions.
Its DARE-developed R-118 radar warning receiver is very poor and its integrated EW suite is unproven. A fact which is why the IAF had reject the aircraft and went for the MiG-29UPG upgrade programme which has the IAF’s most advanced internally-mounted integrated EW suite.
But the production version LCA-1P, the LCA Mk 1A (SoP-18), will be equipped with modern EL/M-2052 AESA radar (instead of the inferior Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) Tarang-1B) along with electronic warfare (EW) systems. The Mk 1A (SoP-18) will overcome a major drawback in the Mark I, the absence of a “self protection jammer”. Tejas designers admit the absence of a jammer to throw enemy radar off the scent is a key vulnerability of the Tejas. While designing the fighter, they simply ran out of space for an internal jammer. With the IAF dropping its insistence on an internal jammer, ADA and HAL have now offered an “external jammer pod”. While this threatened to reduce the Tejas’ weapons carriage by occupying one of its seven hard points, HAL is overcoming that problem by fitting a “twin-arm” at that hard point.
The “electronic warfare” (EW) pod will be carried externally under the fighter’s wing. The Israli Elbit EL/M-2052’s array comprises ‘bricks’ of 24 transmit/receive modules, making it easy to assemble the AESA in different configurations to match the size and shape of an existing combat aircraft’s nose, up to 1,290 modules. Smaller, lower-module-count versions can be air-cooled, reducing weight and making integration simpler.
The IAF had pushed for the installation of an EW suite on Tejas that will include SaabTech’s radar warning receiver and laser warning receiver along with the MILDS-F missile approach warning system (MAWS) sourced from EADS/Cassidian. This package has already been selected for the EMB-145I AEW & CS programme, the Super Su-30MKI upgrade programme, Rudra helicopter-gunships, Dhruv Mk4 ALH and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH).
It needs to be noted that the LCA, which will be used for close air support or counter air missions, does not need this kind of sophisticated electronics that an aircraft designed to operate deep in enemy territory needs. It's only for defensive counter-air and CAS missions which are flown only in support of friendly ground forces engaged in contact battles, and for blunting an enemy’s multi-echelon thrusts used armoured and mechanised forces, such missions won’t be subjected to attacks by hostile ground-based MR-SAMs.
The advanced EW suite was jointly developed by Israel and Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), a DRDO laboratory specialising in avionics and electronic warfare systems, which gives to the pilot an additional capability of nullifying the effect of detected radar threat by appropriate mode of jamming. The suite is built around state-of-the-art Unified Electronic Warfare System (UEWS)—An internal EW system consisting of a Unified Receiver Exciter Processor (UREP) with advanced digital receiver/Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) concepts are integrated with Microwave Power Module (MPM)-based transmitter for LCA.
A light fighter must have long legs which requires air-to-air refuelling. The integration of air-to-air refuelling has been regarded as essential to give the Tejas enough reach. Currently, its internal tanks carry just 2,300 litres of fuel, with another 2,400 litres carried in external pods. However, external pods cannot be carried into battle, and they take up two weapon stations, reducing the fighter’s punch. Without external fuel tanks, the Tejas has a combat radius of barely 300 kilometres. Air-to-air refuelling will step up combat radius to 500 kilometres. Towards that, a late prototype of the Tejas, numbered LSP-8, was fitted with an external fuel probe.
Delta shape is good for subsonic speeds (suitable for interceptors), but it has diminished aerodynamic efficiency at low speeds. A broad-cord trapezoidal wings that "merge" into a fuselage is not as good at higher speed but it can achieve a low radar cross-section. The aircraft due to its basic platform design, suffers from high drag, poor intake efficiency, as well as significant shortfalls in performance related to acceleration, top speed and rate of climb. However, the turn rates are just a couple of degrees short of what is required.
The early SP-series Tejas Mark I has not been designed with operational availability in mind. It is a maintenance nightmare, with sub-systems inaccessible. IAF wants the fighter to take maximum 14 minutes between landing after a mission; and taking off for the next mission, fully checked, rearmed and refuelled. This also involves fitting “pressure refuelling” of the kind that exists in Formula One racing cars, which requires fuel to be pumped under pressure into the fuel tanks. Refuelling the Tejas takes just four minutes, and two more to fill drop tanks as well.
China also has the same problems with their JF-17. Both these fighter jets were suppose to replace the aging Mig-21s. However, the the production version LCA-1P has 27 modifications and is said to have corrected this issue. The Tejas already has built-in-test-equipment (BITE), which is a software programme that automatically checks the functionality of every crucial system. The need to check each one manually is no longer there. For the IAF, which must mount multiple missions everyday with each Tejas fighter, easy “maintainability” and “low turn-around-time” are key attributes.
The flight system of the Tejas has a more complicated origin. Originally the aircraft was set to be equipped with a FADEC system developed jointly by Lockheed Martin and India, however, an Indian nuclear test led to sanctions being implemented against the country, ending the US-Indian cooperative endeavor. India then looked to Russian aircraft manufacturer Mikoyan and Moscow Air Production Organization for help, until the sanctions were revoked in 2001. India then ordered actuators from London-based BAE Systems, which were handed over in 2003. Tejas’ avionics system were finally designed by France, with three 1553B serial buses and two centralized 32-bit, high-throughput mission computers, including a communications subsystem, a mission subsystem, a self-defense system and a guidance and flight system. Then Lockheed Martin joined the development project once again. This lengthy process slowed down the entire development of the aircraft. Overall, the core parts of the system were completed by Lockheed Martin.
The aircraft project was sanctioned in 1983 at a cost of Rs 560 crore, and it will be completed exactly 30 years after it was launched at an approximate overall cost of around Rs 25,000 crore. “Made in India” aircraft like the Tejas could be continually upgraded without licensing issues, altered, and supplied anywhere in the world. The DRDO chief says that the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is two-third Indian, and indigenisation will rise to 80% when the Tejas gets its indigenous radar. Meanwhile, an audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had alleged that the LCA is 90% imported. These figures could be telling only half the story. Often, Indian contractors disburse a portion of the money to foreign vendors for assemblies, sub-assemblies and components that go into the “Indian” equipment they supply the military. Thus, it's claimed that Tejas is achieving 70-80% indigenisation, half of these sub-systems were developed with imported electronic components and accessories. Since modern fighter aircrafts are not only extremely expensive but technologically very advanced machinery constructed out of the latest materials and electronics, it goes without saying that full indigenisation will never be possible.
HAL engineers recount the complexity of flight-testing the Tejas LCA. “Fuel flow to the engine was a challenging issue. As the LCA flew, its centre of gravity shifted because fuel was consumed unevenly between its 7-8 fuel tanks. So we learned to balance the fuel between tanks, completely changing the design of this system during flight-testing. Similarly, we had to strengthen the wings when we mounted the R-73 missile. All this you learn only by experience,” says Agarwal.
1. Multi-Mode Radar: MIL-STD-1553B data-buses EL/M-2032 radar
2. Elbit DASH helmet-mounted display
3. RAFAEL Derby medium range air-to-air missile
4. IAF & DRDO are convinced that Israeli Python-5 Close Combat Air-to-Air missile offered superior performance to Vympel R-73 (AA-11) “Archer” short range air-to-air missile and could provide better integration with FCR of LCA-Tejas. The lack of cooperation from Russia in providing access to its source code and high price demanded in certifying it with Indo-Israeli Multi-Mode Fire control Radar (FCR) was one of the factors in the deal-breaker.
The aircraft will also be carrying the Lightening targeting pod, enabling the LCA to deploy precision guided weapons of various types – from laser guided, to GPS or EO guided weapons.
The limited series production (LSP-7) 28-min flight, commanded by with Gp Capt K.K. Venugopal was used to check out performance of virtually the entire gamut of the aircraft systems including crucial hybrid Indo-Israeli Multi-mode Radar (MMR), Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS), auto-pilot and instrument landing system (ILS).
HAL has brought a radically new approach to Tejas production, adopting global aerospace manufacturing standards and an unprecedented approach to quality control. By measuring with the laser, it is ensured that the locator or key points on each aircraft built is within 80 microns, i.e. about one-tenth of a millimetre, of where it should be. These are international standards, used by companies like Boeing.
That was the pattern while building the Hawk. After building just two aircraft in the first year, seven were built in the second year. In the third year, HAL built 18 Hawks, and the remaining 14 Hawks were produced within months.
EL/M 2052 AESA radar
Multi-Mode Radar: India has attempted unsuccessfully to build its own indigenous AEW, with catastrophic results when the program was decapitated after the testbed HS-748 crashed during one of its test flights. The airborne radars technology was too complex for HAL & DRDO and so they used as a template the existing EL/M-2052 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar developed by IAI Elta. Originally, the EL/M-2032 developed by IAI Elta was selected but the new EL/M-2052 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is now available with a more compact antenna is best designed to fit the nose cones of LCA and Jaguar (replace the outdated Ferranti Blue Fox radar), offering enhanced capabilities for both fighters.
This agile radar, along with the DASH-3 helmet mounted display sight from Elbit Systems will enable a Tejas pilot to acquire targets at all combat ranges and engage them in full sphere, shooting the missiles by merely looking at the target, without having to maneuver the LCA toward the target, thus making the Tejas much more potent than the sum of its aerodynamic capabilities offer. In fact, such smart combat systems could provide the LCAs just that amount of survivability it needs to avoid trouble, safely carry out its mission and even win a dogfight if the situation ‘gets ugly’. Incidentally, the Israeli press reported that the Israeli air force was not too happy with the Northrop AN/APG-68(V)9 AESA radar and was pushing for a replacement that builds on the tried and tested 2032.
HAL will make outright purchase of 24 sets of fully formed EW suites and locally manufacture another 48 based on a combination of kits supplied by the awarded vendor.
In the late 80s India's aircraft Industry was not as advanced as Sweden's; and yet India follows a more arduous design/development route for its LCA, compared to Sweden for its JAS-39 Gripen. The Gripen embodied a far higher percentage of foreign, off-the-shelf technology, including its RM-12 engine (improved GE F404). France (Dassault Aviation) built and exhaustively flew a demonstrator aircraft (Rafale-A) before embarking on construction of Rafale prototypes. Over 2,000 flights were completed by September 1994 and at that point of time, Dassault Aviation had built or flown 93 prototypes, of which at least fifteen went into production after sixteen years elapsed from 'first-metal-cut' of the Rafale demonstrator to entry into service. Current plans for the LCA is ten years. And what of India's past record? Just a hand-ful of trainer aircraft designed and productionised. The story is similar for the Eurofighter Typhoon. It was seventeen years from 'first-metal-cut' (EAP) to squadron entry in 2000. One more timeframe needs to be noted. It took Gripen six and a half years from first flight (prototype) to entry into squadron. For the LCA, four and a half years is the target!
Under heavy pressure from the then speculative Chinese J-10 for Hindustan to deliver. Based on a 'Tactical Air Support Aircraft' ASR markedly similar to that for the Marut, HAL completed design studies in 1975, but the project fell through due to inability to procure the selected "proven engine" from a foreign manufacturer and the IAF's requirement for an air superiority fighter with secondary air support and interdiction capability remained unfulfilled.
The LCA programme was launched in 1983 for two primary purposes. The principal and most obvious goal was the development of a replacement aircraft for India's ageing MiG-21 fighters. The MiG-21 has been the mainstay of the Indian Air Force since the 1970s. The "Long Term Re-Equipment Plan 1981" noted that the MiG-21s would be approaching the end of their service lives by the mid-1990s, an 11.4% shortfall in its squadron strength in 1990-91 and a 40 per cent shortfall by 1994-95. To close the gap in squadron strength, the government in 1983 approved the LCA programme at an estimated cost of Rs. 560 crore and the programme was formally launched in 1985. The 1983 approval was for building six prototypes with Project Definition Phase (PDP) to be completed by 1988. The management of the programme was handed over to the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) which was constituted in 1984 as a standalone registered society under the MoD-controlled Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). ADA’s key responsibility was to collaborate with various industries and scientific institutions to implement the ambitious programme.
Scope of LCA
The LCA was intended as a single-engine, multi-role fighter aircraft to be indigenously designed and developed to replace the ageing fleet of the IAF’s MiG series. It was also intended to “integrate modern design concepts and state of the art technologies such as relaxed static stability, fly by wire control system, advanced avionics, high strength composite materials and multimode radar.” Short takeoff and landing, high manoeuvrability with excellent maintainability and a wide range of weapon fit, were also some other features the LCA was visualised to have. As per the original sanction the prototype version of LCA was to be developed around a proven imported engine, with the production version using indigenous engine. For the development of an indigenous engine, a separate programme was sanctioned in 1989 to another DRDO lab with Probable Date of Completion (PDC) of 1996.
Delays and Cost Overrun
After government approval in 1983, the IAF outlined the Air Staff Requirement (ASR) in October 1985. The ASR indicated a requirement of 220 LCAs that included 200 units in a fighter version and the remaining 20 in trainer configuration. ADA, which was created to manage the programme, began consultation with international firms but found the developmental effort would consume significant time (126 months from the date of sanction in 1985). The Project Definition Phase (PDP) document prepared by the ADA was finally released in 1988. However the IAF while reviewing the document found it “deficient in the crucial parameters of aerodynamic configuration, volume and weight” which led to a heated yet protracted negotiation between the Air Force and ADA. To resolve the differences between these two organisation, an Expert Committee comprising members from DRDO and IAF was set up which recommended in 1990 that Full Scale Engineering Development (FSED) be “undertaken in phased manner to demonstrate confidence levels in critical technology areas before making major investments in multiple prototype manufacture, full flight test and full scale production.” The Committee also recommended that the prototypes to be built under FSED were to “incorporate all technologies except radar, electronic warfare system and weapons.”
Although the ADA-led team started working on Phase-I of FSED from April 1990 onwards its formal approval by the government came in April 1993 at an estimated cost of Rs. 2188 crore, including the Rs. 560 crore sanctioned in 1983. Four major milestones were laid down to be achieved:
(1) Roll out of first technology demonstrator (TD) by June 1995;
(2) 1st flight of the first TD by December 1996;
(3) 1st flight of 2nd TD by September 1997; and
(4) Completion of 210 hours of flight by June 1998.
However all the milestones could not achieved by the end of 1998 as there were delays in development of various systems. Sanctions imposed after India’s Pokhran nuclear test in 1998 also contributed significantly as nearly 40 crucial components planned for procurement from the US suddenly stopped flowing. It took another six years for the first phase of FSED to be completed in March 2004.
In the meantime ADA with great deal of difficulty managed to unveil the first Technology Demonstrator in November 1997, which was put to the historic maiden flight on January 04, 2001, some 40 years after HF-24 Marut made its first flight. Based on this success the government gave its approval in November 2001 for the Phase-II of FSED at the estimated cost of Rs. 3301.78 core with probable date of completion (PDC) in December 2008. The Phase-II involved the building of three prototypes (including one trainer), integration of weapons, sensors and flight test leading to Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) by 2008 and Final Operational Clearance (FOC) by 2010. It also involved establishment of production facility for eight aircraft per year and manufacturer of eight pre-production aircrafts. In the meantime the government also sanctioned another programme in 2003 for FSED of a naval version of LCA at an estimated cost of Rs. 1714.98 crore. The naval programme envisaged two naval LCAs (one fighter and one trainer), capable of operating from an aircraft carrier with 14 degree ski-jump take-off and arrested recovery.
The above decisions notwithstanding, the crucial Phase-II also witnessed delays, forcing the governed to extend the PDC. In the midst of Phase-II, it came to light that the original design of LCA needed to be significantly modified to make it contemporary and meet the IAF’s requirements. The non-availability of the Kaveri engine, for which a separate decision was given in the PDC of 1996, also contributed to design changes so as to accommodate the GE404 engine imported from the US. The above imperatives were accepted by the government and the IOC and FOC were accordingly revised upwards to December 2010 and December 2012. The upward revision of timeframe also necessitated revision of funding, this time by an additional amount of Rs. 2475.78 crore to the programme.
However, misunderstood is the figure of Rs 14,047, which includes the cost of developing both the IAF and naval LCA, covering both the Mark I version as well as Mark II. As the graphic illustrates, the air force Tejas Mark I has so far cost Rs 7,490 crore, and is within its budget of Rs 7,965 crore. ADA chief, PS Subramanyam, who clarified that Rs 560 crore was not the budget for the entire Tejas programme, but merely for “feasibility studies and project definition”, which also included creation of the infrastructure needed for the new fighter. For that amount, tiny compared to the billions that get sucked into developing fighters abroad. It also led to an aerospace ecosystem --- DRDO laboratories, private industry, academic institutions, and test facilities like the National Flight Testing Centre (NFTC)
After nearly two decades, GTRE has failed to deliver kaveri engine for Tejas and in the past failed to deliver on the HJE-2500 engine for the Kiran jet trainer or come up with anything credible when the Maruts languished for want of a suitable engine during the 70s. The LCA requires an engine with more than 90 KN thrust, while the Kaveri has thrust of only 65 KN thrust. Even the GE-404 that is powering the LCA has a lesser thrust. Hence, the new Snecma-GTRE venture aims at creating a more powerful engine for the LCA.
Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will soon be finalizing the price of the joint venture with French major Snecma for the development of the engine to power India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The joint venture will be between DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) and Snecma to create better gas turbine engines to power the LCA. French firm Snecma is expected to bring technology for the hot engine core and GTRE will work on the cold sections. GTRE will have half of the technology work-share and Snecma will have the other half, according to DRDO sources. GTRE will obtain technical know-how and intellectual property rights for the engine.
Once the cabinet committee on security approval is obtained, work will be initiated and the Snecma-Kaveri engine will be designed and built in four years. There are three Kaveri prototypes - K6, K8 and K9. They are not flight capable due to their tendency to stall in certain regimes.
GTRE has spent nearly two decades in the development of the indigenous Kaveri engine and it is still overweight by around 150 kilograms and cannot provide sufficient thrust from its core engine, required to power the LCA. A jet engine has a cold and a hot part and the latter forms the core of the engine where combustion and the thermodynamics of the engine take place.
Earlier, the Kaveri-Snecma joint venture was criticised by the IAF on grounds that Snecma, which is a derivative of the M-88 engine developed for the Rafale aircraft, has a similar core like that of the Kaveri engine and the joint venture involves GTRE building the peripheral of the core, which would not solve the purpose of having the joint venture since it will turn out to be a license production of Snecma.
By the inclusion of Snecma, the purpose of indigenisation is defeated by the GTRE. However, GTRE feels that in the co-development with Snecma, the research and development of GTRE for decades on the Kaveri engine will also be absorbed. Besides, Snecma will bring in the core called "Eco” for the new engine, and integrate it with systems developed for Kaveri and is not hesitant on sharing technology with India.
Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will soon be finalizing the price of the joint venture with French major Snecma for the development of the engine to power India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The joint venture will be between DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) and Snecma to create better gas turbine engines to power the LCA. French firm Snecma is expected to bring technology for the hot engine core and GTRE will work on the cold sections. GTRE will have half of the technology work-share and Snecma will have the other half, according to DRDO sources. GTRE will obtain technical know-how and intellectual property rights for the engine. Once the cabinet committee on security approval is obtained, work will be initiated and the Snecma-Kaveri engine will be designed and built in four years. Earlier, the Kaveri-Snecma joint venture was criticised by the IAF on grounds that Snecma, which is a derivative of the M-88 engine developed for the Rafale aircraft, has a similar core like that of the Kaveri engine and the joint venture involves GTRE building the peripheral of the core, which would not solve the purpose of having the joint venture since it will turn out to be a license production of Snecma.
To be compatible with the LCA Tejas, this Kaveri engine would have to retain the existing dimensions of the compressor and turbine sizes. So, the chief way in which a similar sized derivative can be uprated to 90 KN would be by having an engine core that can withstand much higher turbine entry temperatures. This, in turn, would require the core to be made up of different materials (the current Kaveri engine core called Kabini), such as next generation titanium alloys.
While deciding on the revised PDC, it also came to notice that the LCA needed a more powerful engine than American GE404. The Kaveri engine being nowhere in sight, the government allowed the programme mangers to look for a suitable engine from abroad to power LCA. The prototypes were maintenance nightmares and after each test flight it took several days to get the aircraft in shape to fly again. Because a new imported engine would require further modifications of the LCA, the government sanctioned Phase-III of FSED, to develop what is now called LCA Mark-II (all LCAs with GE404 engine are called LCA Mark-I) with an estimated cost of Rs. 2431.55 crore, and allowed programme to continue till December 2018. The government also sanctioned Rs. 395 crore to continue with further technology upgradation.
While the Phase-II aircraft was in operation and - especially after the selection of GE404 engine to power LCA - the Air Force agreed to buy 40 LCAs (in Mark-I version with GE404 engine), 20 each in IOC and FOC standard. IOC being finally accorded in January 10, 2011, the delivery is planned from 2012 onwards. The next big test for LCA is FOC. However the expected time in December 2012 for FOC seems to be unlikely as the IAF has raised some concerns. The IAF chief has recently indicated a delay of at least a year, which will push delivery not before 2013.
Failure of Kaveri Engine Development: The programme for indigenously design and develop an engine for the LCA was sanctioned in March 1989 at an estimated cost of Rs. 382.81 crore. The programme was given to the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), which was already working on aero engine project since 1982. The PDC of Kaveri was December 1996 with several milestones to be achieved by that time. However the PDC has been revised several times - with negative consequences for the project. By March 2010, the cost has been revised upwards by 642% to Rs. 2,839 crore. The cost and time overruns apart, the Kaveri engine developed by GTRE is not up to the mark. The most vital shortcomings of the engine are its weight and power. As per the original plan, the required engine weight was not more than 1100 kg where as by January 2009 the weight of Kaveri is 1235 kg. As regards power, LCA requires an engine of 90 kilonewtons of thrust where as Kaveri provides 80 kilonewtons or about 11% power. In terms of technical shortcomings, the GTRE has not been able to overcome the problems in developing vital components such as compressor, turbine and engine control system.
The above problems have forced the LCA programme managers to delink Kaveri from LCA development and look for alternative engines. The initial plan for developing prototypes with imported engines culminated in procurement of 41 GE404s, which will power the Mark-I version of LCA. Since the decision was taken to power the Mark-II version of LCA with a more powerful engine, another contract worth $844 million was signed for 99 GE414 engines. The import of successive engines has however not deterred GTRE in making further efforts to develop a more powerful Kaveri engine, with the ultimate aim of powering LCA Mark-II. In its latest movement, the DRDO has now proposed to form a Joint Venture with French engine maker, Snecma which had incidentally declined an earlier offer of 2001.
Kaveri also has technical problems with its compressor, turbine and engine control system India abandoned its efforts to build its own engine to power the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark-2. The MoD has now decided to use the Kaveri engine to power only UAVs, the official added. Meanwhile LCA Mark-2 program, ADA will order 99 GE-414 engines and the rest will be manufactured in India under technology transfer arrangements.
Delay in LCA Programme and its Impact on IAF
The LCA was intended to replace the MiG series of aircraft that were to be phased out beginning from the early nineties. However delay in the LCA programme has forced the IAF to continue with the ageing and accident-prone MiG aircraft till now. This has taken a heavy toll on the IAF at force level. Of the 950 MiGs that India has procured over the years, nearly 50 per cent have met with accidents, severely depleting IAF’s combat force, which at present stands below 30 squadrons from the approved strength of 39.5. This has led the IAF to either upgrade its old Russian aircraft or procure newer ones. In 1995, the Defence Ministry signed a $626 million contract with Russia for the upgrade of 125 MiG Bis aircraft. One year later, it singed another contract worth Rs. 6310 crore with Russia for 40 SU-30 fighters. As these contracts have not been enough to replace the vast MiG inventory, the government again in 2007 floated a $10 billion tender for 126 Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). Even after the induction of MMRCA into the IAF, there will be still gap, as nearly 470 MiGs (21 and 27 variants) are waiting to be phasing out.
“The core challenge is managing technology risk. The users demand more and fast; but you don’t have the technology in your hand. This pits the IAF versus DRDO.”
Consequently, the LCA programme has seen more confrontation than cooperation between the IAF and ADA. The CAG notes that, as early as 1989, an LCA Review Committee had recommended the “Need for a Liaison Group between Air HQ and ADA to ensure closer interaction between the design team and the user”. Yet, “no such liaison group was formed and active user (Air HQ) participation in the LCA Programme started only after November 2006, which also impacted the LCA development.”
Even as the IAF criticised ADA, its demands for additional capabilities in the LCA kept delaying the operational clearances. The CAG report points out that in December 2009, the air force asked for the R-73E air-to-air missile to be integrated with the LCA’s radar and the pilots’ helmet mounted displays. The CAG also blames the air force for taking too long to identify a “beyond-visual-range (BVR) missile” for the LCA. Continuing IAF demands for modifications still prevent the LCA design from being frozen for production. Additionally, the prototypes were maintenance nightmares and after each test flight it took several days to get the aircraft in shape to fly again.
The MiG-27's and Jaguars and even Su-30MKI's are all using LCA derived technology. The ambitiousness of the LCA programme in terms of pursuing self-reliance in aviation technologies is illustrated by the fact that out of a total of 35 major avionics components and line-replaceable units (LRUs), only three involve foreign systems. These are the multi-function displays (MFDs) by Sextant (France) and Elbit (Israel), the helmet-mounted display and sight (HMDS) cueing system by Elbit, and the laser pod supplied by Rafael (Israel). However, even among these three, when the LCA reaches the production stage, the MFDs are expected to be supplied by Indian companies. A few other important items of equipment (such as the Martin-Baker ejection seat) have been imported.
Unlike the IAF, the navy adopted the Naval LCA programme from the start, committing personnel and over Rs 900 crore from the navy budget. Says former naval chief and distinguished fighter pilot Admiral Arun Prakash, “The navy knows the importance of indigenisation, having experienced how foreign aircraft like the Sea Harrier fighter and Sea King helicopter were grounded for lack of support. Unlike the air force, we are not critically dependent upon the LCA, since we have the MiG-29K.”
India’s defence planners went fundamentally wrong in simultaneously attempting both things: building a fighter quickly to replace the retiring MiG-21s, while also attempting, as a “catch-up nation”, to leapfrog technology ambitiously. “In our very first attempt, we went in for a frontline, state-of-the-art aircraft. It was complete technological audacity to decide, ‘We've never built a fighter before but we'll start with a Gen-4 design’. Astonishingly, we've managed this feat, albeit with delays”, says an ADA official who works at the cutting edge of the LCA programme.
To add to the air force’s worries about depleting force levels, a light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas that was recently in field trials in Jaisalmer returned to Bangalore with a major technical fault: its undercarriage was down. The first of the Tejas aircraft had been handed over to the air force in January this year pending a final operational clearance for the plane, which, it was hoped, would come by December. That hope is receding. The Jaisalmer incident has further sapped the air force’s confidence in the LCA. A former air force chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, had famously described the LCA as MiG 21-plus. The MiG 21 is of 1970s vintage.
From LCA to AMCA
No doubt LCA programme has witnessed inordinate delays, cost overruns, and has adversely impacted the force level of the Air Force. The biggest failure is the Kaveri engine, with no distant sign that it will ever fly with LCA. All these point to LCA’s failure. But at the same time LCA development was never going to be an easy process. The industrial and technological muscle required for developing a combat aircraft had simply dissipated in the 40 year gap since Marut was last designed and produced indigenously. The programme managers of LCA had to start from the scratch and fight against all odds - especially after the US embargo in 1998 - to develop the key technologies for the ambitious combat aircraft. To the credit of ADA, many technologies including digital fly-by-wire, advanced carbon composite structures, integrated avionics architecture, advanced testing facilities were developed indigenously. Having produced these technologies, the next question is: can India build on the LCA’s progress or will it be left to meet the Marut’s fate. The DRDO, on its part, has proposed to develop the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) with additional features including stealth and supercruise. This tempting offer on one side and the bitter delay and cost overrun of LCA on the other side, it will be a catch-22 situation for the policy makers in the Defence Ministry to decide the future of India’s aeronautics industry.
A naval aircraft is typically 500-700 kg heavier than its air force variant due to the need of strengthened structure, heavier landing gear and arrester hook.
"developing the naval version is a much tougher ask with constraints in the runway, folding blades and operating in tougher environs as against operating from a land-based fixed runway” said LCA Tejas Programme Director CD Balaji .
“When the programme was envisaged at the time of its sanction in 2003, it was expected that the naval version could be derived from the air force version, already flying, by introduction of a stronger landing gear and arrester hook. However, as detailed design progressed, there was a need for significant changes to the structure, a much more complex landing gear to be housed in the centre fuselage, and an externally mounted arrester hook on a dedicated platform."
The decision to develop the LCA Mk-2 was taken when it became evident to the IAF while testing LSP Tejas LCA's that the aircraft performance was short on certain key Air Staff (revised) Requirements such as: Power to Weight Ratio, Sustained Turn Rate etc; as the aircraft was nearly 1.5 ton heavier than its designed weight, and which can only be remedied through the use of a more powerful engine.
Tejas LCA and LCA (Navy) Mk-1 do not conform perfectly to area ruling resulting in high supersonic drag. Hence, LCA (Navy) Mk2, a new programme with a higher thrust engine was sanctioned. So it was decided to develop a new variant of the aircraft powered by the more powerful GE-F414-INS6 engine. AL has argued that due to integration of powerful General Electric F-414INS6 engine in MK-2 aircrafts which will improve performance deficit but since Air-frame which more or less will be same would also lead to higher consumption of fuel and the aircraft which will also get heavier will lead to aircrafts effective range more or less be same as LCA-I P.
ADA is designing LCA Navy Mk-2 using DFMA (Design for Manufacturing and Assembly) methodology, which ensures that aircraft components are designed to ensure easy manufacture, without adversely impacting the ease with which they can be fitted on the aircraft. The first time use of DFMA methodology in designing an aircraft would ensure better quality and quick ramp up of serial production. However, the IAF remains skeptical about the Tejas Mark II, but the navy is certain the Tejas must have the more powerful but heavier F-414 engine to enable it to get airborne from short aircraft carrier decks. The ADA has opened dialogue with the Indian Navy with the hope that its customer will come round to the view that the LCA Navy Mk.2 will be a sensible graduated step to the big twin engine jets it finally wants to operate.
LCA Navy Mk-2 has been designed from the ground up as a Navy fighter first and foremost, starting with the landing gear, & then designing the airframe around it, independently of the IAF Tejas LCA Mk-2. The fuselage of the LCA Navy Mk-2 has been stretched and the wing roots moved outwards. The aircraft will become longer by 500 mm - 550 mm. As a result, aircraft design has been optimized for supersonic flight with perfect conformance to area rule. The landing gear mass of the LCA (Navy) Mk-2 aircraft is likely to be reduced by 200-250 kg, being capable of a higher takeoff mass. The prototypes likely to come from this Mk-2 flight-line are being designated as NP-3 and NP-4.
IAF came to hear about the Navy's requirement midway into the program (2004-2006) which required new engines, IAF feared that Navy will get a superior jet and far more capable fighter jet then Air force variant which was developed for them based on their ASR , this Inter-service stiff and opportunity to piggyback on Navies requirement made sure that MK-1 program suffered even when aircraft was much more capable then Mig-21 operated by IAF which it was supposed to replace. The navy, however, is now demanding far greater capability from the Tejas than what the cabinet clearance of 2009 had specified. This involved measures like strengthening the undercarriage for landings on carrier decks and modifying the cockpit to increase pilot visibility.
The project for design and development of Light combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas Mk-II was sanctioned in November 2009 at a cost of Rs.2431.55 Crore with Probable Date of Completion (PDC) of December 2018. However, because of delay in finalisation of Engine Contract, the project could start only in December 2013. As a result, maiden flight of first Prototype and Operational Clearance are likely to be completed by December 2019 and December 2022, respectively. The naval variant is set to replace the ageing fleet of the British built Sea Harrier aircraft of the Indian Navy and complement its fleet of MiG-29 carrier aircraft.
Besides a more powerful engine, LCA Navy Mk-2 will feature:
- Structural Weight Reduction
- Aerodynamic Improvements
- Upgraded Flight Control Computer
- Electronic Warfare Suite
- Upgraded Avionics
- Retractable probe for inflight refueling
- On board oxygen generation system
- Increased fuel capacity.
At initiation, it was anticipated that the conversion of an Air Force version to a Naval version with specific attributes would entail about 15% change. However, as the detail design and development process unfolded, the teams involved realized that the changes were almost to the extent of 40% to 45%. The Naval LCA is specifically designed for take off from a 14 degree ramp on the aircraft carrier deck and use the arrester hook system to facilitate landing within the deck length of 90 meters. As additional features, the naval version will have a Levcon (leading edge vortex control) to reduce its forward speed for carrier landing, telescopic landing gear with high sink rate, arrester hook for deck recovery and fuel dump system for emergency deck recovery. A dedicated test rig was built and tested to assess failure. There it was discovered that there was a failure at 135% loading, and the aircraft structure was duly strengthened. Further, when the thrust shortfall was encountered, ADA went back to the Cabinet Committee on Security in Dec 2009, with Navy in the loop, to seek a configuration with a higher thrust engine. This was the genesis of the LCA Navy Mk2. These features distinguish the naval version from the IAF's LCA.
Rafale and Super Hornet, which are designed and built to be launched from aircraft carriers with catapults, are capable of “ski-jump” launches from the 2 Indian carriers, neither of which have catapults. Without catapults, those aircraft will have to be launched with significantly lower payloads of fuel and weapons, especially in India’s warmer environment. The navy has done no studies of the compromises that will be necessary.
FC-1 Fierce Dragon (Block II) / JF-17c Thunder (Block II)
“There’s no obvious reason why the Chengdu JF-17 should not be a credible contender in a number of markets where a more capable combat aircraft is either unaffordable or unavailable, particularly in some African and possibly Middle Eastern states looking to replace legacy types with a low-cost platform”
The 13 ton JF-17 was developed by China in cooperation with Pakistan, which originally only wanted to buy 150 of them. All this came about because Pakistan could not get modern fighters from anyone else, and turned to China. By 2017 there were only 90 JF-17s built, all of them for Pakistan. There are orders from Burma for 16 and Nigeria for three but these 2 sales are more about diplomacy (and bribes) than military necessity. China says it does not want to use the JF-17 itself because its locally-designed J-10 and J-11 (license built Russian Su-27) are adequate for their needs.
The Chinese designed JF-17 (also known as FC-1 Fierce Dragon) is also manufactured in China, which is trying to export it to Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Burma, Iran and Sri Lanka as an inexpensive alternative to American and Russian fighters. The only problem is that there are hundreds of second-hand (and very well maintained) F-16s on the market, selling for less than the lowest configuration bare-bones JF-17. So JF-17 is mostly for countries who cannot buy F-16 due to U.S. reluctance to sell it to them. It is based on readily available technologies to build a fighter that could rapidly enter operational service. The use of off-the-shelf materials not only cuts costs but also reduces risks in the design process and improves the reliability of the aircraft. This will not make it the best aircraft, but rather a standard, cheap and reliable model for air-to-air combat.
The third-generation JF-17 is a cleverly re-engineered MiG-21 based on the cancelled Russian MiG-33 and is considered equal to earlier versions of the F-16 but only 80% as effective as more recent F-16 models. A key difference is the shape of the nose. If you look at a MiG-21 or J-7, each has a rounded, inward-protruding engine air intake. This made sense when these fighters came about in the 1950s and 1960s, respectively, as both types had limited fire-control radars. But as Chinese radar technology advanced, Chengdu moved the Thunder's air intake into its fuselage, freeing up room for the Chinese-made KLJ-7 radar — which has capabilities for both air-to-air and air-to-ground strikes.
The newer JF-17 Block-II variant costs around $20-25 million a piece, compared to JF-17 Thunder Block 1 which costs about $15m. Three JF-17 Thunder Block 2 aircraft can be purchased in price of one F-16. As of January 2016, the JF-17 Block-3 variant is stated to get AESA radar & Helmet Mounted Display and Sight (HMD/S) system. It is unclear if the current Russian RD-33 engine will be replaced by the more powerful RD-93 engine.
These Block II JF-17 have a new Multi-mode Radar with improved A2G modes including SAR, Terrain following Radar, Improved navigation systems, and FLIR. The NRIET KLJ-7 X-band radar will have been retained for the Block I/II aircraft, and standoff weapons such as the Ra’ad air-launched cruise missile, H-2/H-4 glide bomb and Mectron MAR-1 anti-radiation missile might also have been integrated onto the Block II jets. Jf-17 Thunder is the first fighter aircraft in Asia, which has air-launched the Meteor missile. Further avionics improvements will probably wait until Block III production begins in 2016, with an active electronically scanned array radar variant of the KLJ-7, he said. But so far, Block III is just conceptual.
Its broad-cord trapezoidal wings that "merge" into a fuselage is not as good at higher speed but it can achieve a low radar cross-section. However diverterless supersonic inlet are far less stealthy. The fighter can carry quite a lot of weapons; about 3.6 tons worth, including long range anti-ship missiles. All seven hard-points communicate via a MIL-STD-1760 data-bus architecture with the Stores Management System, which is stated to be capable of integration with weaponry of any origin. It is unknown whether multiple ejector racks can be used for ordnance such as beyond visual range (BVR) AAMs. It has improved wings for greater maneuverability and a powerful engine.
They had the choice of the commonly used F404, Pratt & Whitney's PW1216, the Turbo-Union RB199, the Snecma M88 and the Russian RD33. After considering different parameters, such as the combat radius, external storage and flexibility, they chose the RD-93 after-burning turbofan due to its low fuel uptake and its reasonable price. The RD-93 (which powers India's MiG 29s) is a variant of the RD-33 developed specifically for the Xiaolong, the main changes being the re-positioning of the gearbox along the bottom of the engine casing and its mechanical turbine control. The RD-93, however, is notorious for its unclean combustion and trail of smoke. Its future replacement is China's WS-13, an improved version of the RD-93 engine, with a better design and more attention to materials and details in its production. It also uses the full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system, which creates the possibility that it may be smaller than the F-414.
The MRCA’s design was frozen by China’s 611 Institute in February 2001. Subsequently, 6 flying prototypes were built by the Chengdu Aircraft Corp (CAC). The first prototype was rolled out on May 31, 2003 and its maiden flight took place on August 25, 2003. The third prototype, built to series-production standards, first flew on April 9, 2004. The fourth prototype flew in April 2006. With 50 jets (Block II) in service, Pakistan’s requirement is for up to 250 planes to replace its Mirage and F-7 aircraft. Which firm is unknown, but PAC collaborates with European companies such as Selex ES and Sagem.
Meteor is a European collaborative programme between the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Germany. The missile is planned to be the primary BVR air-to-air missile for all the modern European fighter aircraft; Gripen, Eurofighter and Rafale.
Gripen fighters are designed to take off from rough, improvised landing strips during wartime and costing a mere $7,560 an hour to fly. Its landing gears which are placed further away from its main fuselage and closer to its wings allowing it to have 10 Pylon station which in turn allows it to carry more weapons. When configured for ground attack role, Gripen E can carry up to 16 GBU-38 500 pound satellite-guided bombs.
Gripen E has 60,000 parts and 40 computers. There are millions of lines of system code, 10% of which are flight critical and 90% related to tactical mission systems. Gripen E unveiled at Linkoping is larger than the Gripen C, with a more powerful General Electric F414 turbojet with supercruise capability, almost third more internal fuel capacity, and 10 instead of 8 hardpoints. In addition to the AESA radar, the Gripen E has a new sensor suite, an infrared search and track (IRST) system and a new fin pod for VHF/UHF antenna.