Monday, March 05, 2007

Why isn't the HAL Tejas part of the MRCA push?

A pertinent question if ever there was one. But like almost everything else in our country -- especially when it has to do with impossible sums of money -- divergent interests come together violently in a spectacular explosion of possible recourses and eventualities. In the end, it's always the taxpayer on the street who has to wonder why stuff gets more expensive all the time while his taxes fly off to fund uneconomic and ill-advised purchases. I am not suggesting for minute here that spending upto $9 billion on new fighter planes is a wholly dispensable idea. Surely it isn't (and no, I am not referring to the Indian Air Force's only partially ingenuous squadron crisis rhetoric). But for something that's gonna shackle the nation to seven-figure instalments as far into the future as we could care to imagine, it's definitely wondering why the HAL Light Combat Aircraft won't be a contender for India's largest single fighter (or defence) purchase in a very long time.

A commenter on blog, Abhiman, makes an accurate and largely overlooked observation. He says one of the "hardened" positions we, and most defence journalists, take is that the LCA Tejas is strictly a replacement platform to the IAF's still huge MiG-21 fleet. Another hardened position, though one that's truer than the first one, is that India wouldn't have needed 126 new fighters from abroad if the LCA Tejas was delivered on time.

And now, the realities: Former air chief S Krishnaswamy, in an interview to me last year, said, " How long can you keep on developing a product?" In case you're wondering, that is not a loaded question. It is fairly well-known that Krishnaswamy pushed hard for inductions of at least limited series production (LSP) LCAs into the air force as a "sample" squadron to give pilots a sense of what they were in for -- after all, the IAF has in principle agreed to field at least 220 of the fighters in the medium term. This did not happen. The horror stories that gravitate around the development of the F-22 Raptor and other fighters in the West are frequently bandied about as testimony to why HAL and DRDO should not be lambasted for the LCA's singular delays. Here are the facts. Sidestepping engineering phases (not in the least to mitigate their importance), the LCA project began in 1983. So officially, it's been a quarter century of development for a fighter that's nowhere near ready. Sure the programme's made stars of our men at DARE, the creditable IJT programme and a handful of other laboratories, but here's the thing: N-o F-i-g-h-t-e-r. And we're running toward a deadline of a fully cleared batch of 20 LCAs handed over by 2011 to the IAF.

But where exactly are we with the Tejas? I have to admit, at Aero India 2007 last month, as the third LCA prototype vehicle (PV3) roared across the skies along with the Gripens and Super Hornets and Fulcrums, there was a proud poignance that missed nobody. There it was, the country's very own fighter aircraft, tearing across hot Bangalore along with all the purported big boys of modern military aviation. Yet, beneath the hood, there is still work to be done. "Dummy" weapons trials will take place only at the end of this year because in January 2004, DRDO learnt that it had to redesign the aircraft's composite wings for "weapons definition" -- the IAF almost did a back-flip when this was communicated to them. The multi-mode radar (MMR) under development by HAL, with assistance from LRDE, still has deep signal-processing glitches that will shortly warrant a foreign technology bailout. Let's not even begin on the Kaveri turbofan, a wasteful blackhole of a programme that will shortly have France's Safran laugh itself silly while signing on the dotted line of an Indo-French JV jet engine with the well-notorious GTRE in Bangalore.

The reason I don't go here into technical details furnished by DRDO and HAL is that beyond a certain point, they appear as an amorphous and blurred blob of an excuse for decades of real mismanagement. Of course the LCA is still prestigious, but it's now come to a point where that just isn't enough to keep things going.

Anyway, we have a new deadline for the Indian fighter. Clearance by 2010 and deliveries of the first 20 by 2011. It isn't an easy deadline to meet, but HAL has worked things well before, so if one could for a moment ignore the matrix of activity over the last quarter century, there may be be no reason to doubt HAL's ability to stick to this crucial deadline. Just this once.

When the IAF first put forth its requirement for 100-odd fighters in the 1990s, it had unequivocally and candidly said it wanted 100-odd Mirage-2000-5s. Extrapolating this to form what was the IAF's unhindered initial requirement, the IAF clearly wanted a good chunky number of light multirole fighters. The Mirage's performance at Kargil gave the IAF the much needed ammo to fuel recommendations of a single vendor buyout from Dassault. Fairly in the event, the government asked the IAF to draft requirements, not recommend aircraft, and this was duly, if a little reluctantly done. Flash forward a few years and here's what the scenario is: the requirements have been "engineered" to include fighters that fit nowhere in what the IAF initially wanted. Detractors of the MRCA contract as a whole say, and not without an element of truth, that the supremely incomplete and heavy Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale (Dassault prudently withdrew the Mirage after it weighed its options) and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet now vie for a contract that was initially to have suited aircraft much lighter. In the sweepstakes, the only fighters that fit the original bill, they say, are Sweden's JAS-39 Gripen and the American F-16. And that brings us back to the Tejas. In terms of overall characteristics and stats, the LCA will ultimately be a Gripen-like aircraft.

One last point -- IAF chief Shashi Tyagi (he retires this month) said in an interview to me that the IAF would buy "outright" 40 Sukhoi-30MKIs soon because the MRCA would take 15 years to finish deliveries. Now, that may not be an entirely pessimistic view, but considering 40 fighters aren't going to cut depletion rates in the near term, it brings us all the way back to why the Tejas isn't a contender for the MRCA deal.

If giving RFPs only to completed fighter programmes is a yardstick, then the government cannot defend sending one to EADS for the Typhoon. But imagine what the dangling carrot of $6 billion in orders could do for HAL and DRDO. Send HAL an RFP, but tell them that no good will come of it if they can't stick to their new deadline. By 2011, HAL should deliver a tight, robust and capable little fighter to the IAF, or else. Give them the semblance of spectacular orders in one go. Tell them, it's time they stopped trudging and started moving into the slipstream of global arms manufacture. Who knows what could happen.

26 comments :

Anonymous said...

You didnt touch upon the rivalry between HAL and ADA. HAL loves its IJT and all its resources etc are behind the IJT. For it the ADA is a step cousin.

Shiv Aroor said...

true, but that's another story altogether, isn't it? why don't you write in with all the details.

chacko Joseph said...

Shiv Aroor Wrote:
And now, the realities: Former air chief S Krishnaswamy, in an interview to me last year, said, " How long can you keep on developing a product?" In case you're wondering, that is not a loaded question. It is fairly well-known that Krishnaswamy pushed hard for inductions of at least limited series production (LSP) LCAs into the air force as a "sample" squadron to give pilots a sense of what they were in for -- after all, the IAF has in principle agreed to field at least 220 of the fighters in the medium term.

This reminds me of the much touted SU-30 project of Russia. In an article "Fat cats become predators, babus bloat on basic instinct" by Mohun Guruswamy, he quotes

"A Russian diplomat once told me that the Sukhoi 30 was the best fighter plane in the world despite the fact that its wings are now a bit heavy. When asked to elaborate he said in a deadpan manner that since the deal spanned three regimes, the plane was bound to get heavy! So the next thing to do after deregulating our lives a bit is to put time limits on project closures. Thus, if a dam or highway is delayed and extension is sought, reasons must be sought and enquired into, and persons deemed responsible must be penalised. For instance, witness the Light Combat Aircraft project that is now 15 years behind schedule or the Arjun tank programme which never really began and never seems to end."

chacko Joseph said...

The LCA team is (or was?) also handling IJT as far as I know. The LCA project slipped because of this as mentioned by Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar.

The HAL/ADA rivalry is not a different story altoghter. It has got to do with resource sharing of LCA project.

HAL definitely treats LCA as step child project. Any project pushed as backburner suffers. Its no brainer.

The Air Force commitee was set up last year to operationalise LCA.Its technologically and operationally difficult to implement recommendations at short notice.

Even Swedish Grippen, Rafale etc have gone through same stages. To quote Jean-Paul Bechat, Chief Executive Officer of Safran "You need to master different complex technologies. It is one thing to get a prototype ready for research and another to make it a production engine,"Snecma itself took about 13 years to get the M88 engine into production for the French Rafale fighter. Even the Rafale had to enter service with the GE F404 engine as Tejas is going to do now.

Anonymous said...

ADA designed LCA and gave it to HAL to build. HAL built Tejas to design parameters, not one screw more, nor less. Given further design inputs from ADA, HAL will make modifications or build new airframes. Similar stories can be told about GTRE, CABS, DARE and other DRDO agencies. Having so many agencies (albeit belonging to the same umbrella organisation) involved in a single project leads to passing the buck and finger pointing. In contrast, IJT and Dhruv are strictly HAL projects and are therefore handled differently. No wonder these will become commercially viable earlier. FYI IJT, Dhruv and LCA are totally separate projects and have different HAL teams working on them, hence there is no question of one being placed on the back-burner to favour another. In Tejas, India is trying to make a highly complex and advanced fighter without the backing of private research and industrial interest, it will take time - well beyond 10 years more - but we must persevere. In the meantime, the IAF must be beefed up to meet its commitments lest someone takes advantage of its weakness. The M2000 was the IAF's preferred MMRCA 'cos it would have helped reduce the diversity of aircraft types in its inventory. Even the USAF has had only 2 major types, viz F-15 and F-16, with smaller numbers of F-117s for special tasks. IAF still has 9 major types of fighters, not including variants. Its a logistical and engineering nightmare to keep these aircraft flying and weaponised. I shudder when I read attempts to divide the 126 MMRCA orders to 2 manufacturers - thats politics, not good military management sense.

chacko Joseph said...

You are right. IJT is by HAL.

http://journal.frontierindia.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=38

Read that,

"HAL’s preoccupation with the Intermediate Jet Trainer programme had much to do with this protracted grounding of TD-1.A golden opportunity to fast track the program was thus lost forever."

Air Marshal P Rajkumar

Mihir Shah said...

Shiv,
You have answered your own question. You said "the IAF clearly wanted a good chunky number of light multirole fighters." Multi-role being the key word here. The IAF obviously wants a great ground-attack fighter with the ability to hold its own in the air to air role if the need arises. The LCA, being designed as a point-defence interceptor with secondary ground attack capability, is unfit for that role. The Mirage-2000V, an advanced version of the good old M2k which proved itself to be a top-notch mud mover in Kargil, is just what the doctor ordered for the IAF. So is the F/A-18.

The Tejas is supposed to be a replacement for the MiG-21. The MRCA will be a an eventual replacement for our old Jaguars and MiG-27s.

Abhiman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abhiman said...

Hello Mr. Aroor. Thanks for discussing your views on the matter of Tejas as possible MRCA, as I did not expect that you would write an entire article dedicated to the question.

I agree with your view that RFP may be sent to HAL against a guarantee of timely delivery. I also agree that HAL-initiated projects like the IJT (completed in a record 39 months) which although beneficial, did not merit more "attention" than the Tejas. as the latter is much more important than IJT.

In my view, it may be apparent that the 126-MRCA proposal is being forwarded while deliberately not considering Tejas as an option. Personal motives like graft, commissions etc. may be a reason for the same and facilitated by the nexus between arms-dealers, politicians and even some defence personnel.

As may be evident from the post of Mihir Shah above, presently the idea of Tejas being nothing else than a MiG-21 replacement, may be rigid.
I'm afraid but in my view, this idea has mostly been propagated by the media and mentioned "religiously" in every news article regarding Tejas : "...the much-delayed LCA, which was to replace the ageing MiG-21s of the IAF is nowhere in sight..." is a typical sentence found in news articles of many dailies.

The root of this idea may be found in the Standing Committee report on Defence, 2005-06, from which I quote, "..air-forces like to have light, medium and heavy fighters.......LCA is a light-weight fighter and is meant to replace the MiG-21 fighters of the IAF....", end quote.

The above opinion is inaccurate, because it is very well known that the Tejas has comparable parameters as the Gripen.
Just as you mentioned that the Govt. cannot justify sending an RFP to the under-development Eurofighter, the Govt. may also not be able to justify not sending an RFP to Tejas, while sending one to the Gripen.

In my view, procedural delays may still enable the entry of Tejas in contention for the MRCA contract. As per various news reports, the selection process amongst the 6 contenders itself may take a period of 3-4 years.
By that time, IoC may be obtained by Tejas and it may be sent one RFP also, though slightly delayed than other contenders.

Mr Aroor, I would also like to know that whether the 6-8 ton category planes like Gripen and F-16 are preferred by the IAF, overall (i.e. not just by some sections).
If true, chances of Tejas in geting an RFP for the MRCA tender may definitely increase, because it meets MRCA requirements fully.

Thank you.

Reference :-

Gripen max. takeoff wt. : 14 tons.
Tejas max. takeoff wt (fighter config) : 13.5 tons.

(The 0.5 difference in max. takeoff weight implies that the max. weapon-load of Tejas & Gripen are similar, as Tejas is nearly 1 ton lighter than Gripen. This is due to use of composites that impart high structural strength).

Gripen combat-radius : ~1200kms.
Tejas combat radius : ~>1,200kms.

Top speed of both planes differs by 0.2 mach. Max. altitude, and g-limits are the same.

Engines in both planes : GE-F404.

Abhiman said...

Hello Mr. Aroor. Thanks for discussing your views on the matter of Tejas as possible MRCA, as I did not expect that you would write an entire article dedicated to the question.

I agree with your view that RFP may be sent to HAL against a guarantee of timely delivery. I also agree that HAL-initiated projects like the IJT (completed in a record 39 months) which although beneficial, did not merit more "attention" than the Tejas. as the latter is much more important than IJT.

In my view, it may be apparent that the 126-MRCA proposal is being forwarded while deliberately not considering Tejas as an option. Personal motives like graft, commissions etc. may be a reason for the same and facilitated by the nexus between arms-dealers, politicians and even some defence personnel.

As may be evident from the post of Mihir Shah above, presently the idea of Tejas being nothing else than a MiG-21 replacement, may be rigid.
I'm afraid but in my view, this idea has mostly been propagated by the media and mentioned "religiously" in every news article regarding Tejas : "...the much-delayed LCA, which was to replace the ageing MiG-21s of the IAF is nowhere in sight..." is a typical sentence found in news articles of many dailies.

The root of this idea may be found in the Standing Committee report on Defence, 2005-06, from which I quote, "..air-forces like to have light, medium and heavy fighters.......LCA is a light-weight fighter and is meant to replace the MiG-21 fighters of the IAF....", end quote.

The above opinion is inaccurate, because it is very well known that the Tejas has comparable parameters as the Gripen.
Just as you mentioned that the Govt. cannot justify sending an RFP to the under-development Eurofighter, the Govt. may also not be able to justify not sending an RFP to Tejas, while sending one to the Gripen.

In my view, procedural delays may still enable the entry of Tejas in contention for the MRCA contract. As per various news reports, the selection process amongst the 6 contenders itself may take a period of 3-4 years.
By that time, IoC may be obtained by Tejas and it may be sent one RFP also, though slightly delayed than other contenders.

Mr Aroor, I would also like to know that whether the 6-8 ton category planes like Gripen and F-16 are preferred by the IAF, overall (i.e. not just by some sections).
If true, chances of Tejas in geting an RFP for the MRCA tender may definitely increase, because it meets MRCA requirements fully.

Thank you.

Reference :-

Gripen max. takeoff wt. : 14 tons.
Tejas max. takeoff wt (fighter config) : 13.5 tons.

(The 0.5 difference in max. takeoff weight implies that the max. weapon-load of Tejas & Gripen are similar, as Tejas is nearly 1 ton lighter than Gripen. This is due to use of composites that impart high structural strength).

Gripen combat-radius : ~1200kms.
Tejas combat radius : ~>1,200kms.

Top speed of both planes differs by 0.2 mach. Max. altitude, and g-limits are the same.

Engines in both planes : GE-F404.

Shiv Aroor said...

abhiman: two points. firstly, your suggestion that government is going in for foreign fighters aggressively because of the possibility of graft is a little redundant. get this -- ALL deals have kickbacks. every SINGLE deal has payoffs at some level. some of them you can see and prove. some you can't. the IAF didn't even want a new fighter type (remember, they wanted 124 Mirages initially). but with the scope of the competition increasing, with new western allies and with the given that this will be politico-strategic decision, the IAF has actually quite cosied up to the super hornet and falcon. they are not too keen on the Mig-35 or the rafale. they love the gripen, but since the government is dangling more advanced fighters, i think they're licking their chops at the prospect of shiny american fighters. it remains to be seen who gets to payoff!

Abhiman said...

Hello Mr. Shiv. It is true that graft may be part of every foreign defence contract.

But in my view, regardless of the above fact, Tejas cannot be ignored; more so for a contract of its magnitude, importance and high media/public scrutiny. A full-fledged indigenous, 4th gen multi-role fighter is "under the noses" of the MoD, but yet it is clubbed as only a lightweight replacement of MiG-21s.

Thus, unprecedented efforts may have been being made to stymie even the suggestion of Tejas as a possible MRCA contender (through Standing Committee Reports that I quoted earlier, media reports, and public statements to the effect by various officials).

Regarding unfulfilled dedication on part of HAL towards Tejas in lieu of IJT, it can be overcome by (as you suggested) providing an RFP of the MRCA to HAL for the Tejas on the condition of timely delivery.

Thus, the delayed work culture that was (to an extent only)** detrimental for the development of Tejas, can now be utilized to make Tejas a frontline contender for the MRCA cotract.

But more generally, a question must be asked by the publc to the government that, why is the indigenous fighter NOT in contention for the MRCA contract ?

The Govt. can be asked this question on 2 grounds :

a) As you rightly said earlier, if an RFP to Eurofighter can be sent, then why not Tejas ? Only weapons integration remains in Tejas.

b) If an RFP can be sent to Gripen, why not to Tejas---A PLANE THAT MAY BE CALLED ITS ASIAN COUNTERPART OR "CLONE" ?

c) Anyway the screening of the contenders shall take an estimated 3-4 years. Then why can't Tejas be given an RFP as soon as IoC is obtained by it next year (or 2009) ?

Sir, by raising this question you have drawn MASS attention towards this issue.

I do not allude to or think of conjuring a "media campaign", or "public fights back" kind of activity, but nevertheless this matter must be brought to frontal opinion, just as you have done.

Thank you.

Mihir Shah said...

Abhiman,
The ability of an aircraft to be effective in ground attack is not a function of Maximum Take-Off Weight alone. To say that the Tejas will be a good strike aircraft since it has an MTOW and combat radius similar to that of the Gripen would be too simplistic. Neither fighter will perform optimally when fully loaded. The extent to which the performance will be degraded is unknown. There are fundamental design differences in the airframes of the two fighters. The sensors and avionics are different too. The LCA, as far as I know, won't carry advanced air-to-ground missiles. The Gipen will.

Abhiman said...

Hi Mihir Shah. Tejas and Gripen both have 8 hardpoints for a total clean take-off weight of 8.5 tons each.

Thus, the number & weight of the total weapons to be carried by both planes shall be similar.
Regarding air-to-ground weaponry, Tejas shall also be integrated with Russian air-to-ground missiles and bombs, which shall be the same ones that are used in other planes of the IAF, like the MiG-29 and Su-30MKI.

I agree that no fighter plane is designed to perform at 9G upon full external load (except latest F-15 version, and Su-30MKI). However, that may not imply that Gripen has superior performance than Tejas.
I think that it may be unlikely that using the same GE F-404 engine, being ~1 ton lighter, and being smaller in size than the Gripen, the aerodynamic performance of Tejas shall be poorer than Gripen in Any case.

Regarding avionics, with the exception of a data-link of the advancement of that in the Gripen, all modern functional avionics shall be carried by the Tejas also.

Thanks.

Mihir Shah said...

Boss, it doesn't depend on weight alone.

Now repeat that after me.

"The ability of an aircraft to be effective in ground attack is not a function of Maximum Take-Off Weight"

For the LCA to be effective in a strike role, it will need to carry precision guided bombs, and more importantly, stand-off air to ground missiles. That means that the pylons will have to be designed for such missiles. If you design a pylon for an R-77, which weighs 175kg, you *cannot* load it with a 600kg Kh-31P. Apart from that, you will need an electronics suite designed for use with the Kh-31. And this is just one example. The next challenge would be to modify the airframe to make it better suited to the ground attack role. Then you will need to match the performance of the airframe and engine so that the aircraft performs well at low altitudes.

This is why aircraft the MiG-25 were never used in the strike role. And why the F-15 had to be heavily modified to get the F-15E.

I am not saying that the LCA is unfit for such a role, but to claim that the LCA is fit to be considered for the MRCA deal simply because its MTOW and range are comparable to those of the Gripen, would too simplistic. The LCA was designed as a point air defence interceptor with a secondary strike role. And that specification holds to this day. There is nothing to suggest that the LCA will become an effective mud mover.

Abhiman said...

Mihir Shah, as per the official website of ADA, the 7 pylons of Tejas can accomodate anti-ship missiles, unguided rockets, conventional / retarded bombs.

http://www.ada.gov.in/Activities/lca/lca.html

The approx. load capacities of most pylons can be calculated also.

As per the official website of ADA, max. external load of Tejas on 7 pylons is >4000kgs, which implies a max. load capacity of 571kgs per pylon.
But the loading of the first 2 under-wing pylons (away from the fuselage), is usually much lesser i.e of the order of 175-250 kgs.

These are used to carry air-to-air missiles.

Thus, the pylons on the centerline fuselage and next to it on either side, will have max. capacity of upto 800kgs to >1000kgs. Thus, the KH-31P can be loaded onto the side pylons.

Besides, the Tejas has one of the most advanced assorted electronics suite for weapon-management, compared to older planes in the IAF like Jaguar and MiG-27. Thus, all latest weapons available with the IAF can be managed by the Tejas.

With a combat-range (most likely "clean" or "fighter configuration") of 1,200 kms Tejas is designed for medium-strike role and not only as a point-defence plane. With mid-air refuelling also the range of Tejas can be enhanced further.

Thank you.

Note : As known to me, MiG-25's usage as a reconaissance plane and not as a high-altitude interceptor of bombers was decided by the IAF as a strategic decision, and not due to issues of weight etc.

Shiv Aroor said...

abhiman is right. ACM idris latif, who i interviewed last year for the foxbat retirement feature, told me that he consulted PM indira gandhi and it was a conscious decision to choose the strat-recon variant rather than the interceptor. they didn't need such a high-altitude interceptor was the rationale.

Abhiman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abhiman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abhiman said...

Note : I have deleted 2 previous posts of mine, as they were improperly phrased.

I would like to also say that planes like Rafale and Eurofighter may not be considered by the IAF, because their specifications are similar to Su-30MKI.

Max. external load :
Su-30MKI : 8 tons.
Rafale : 9 tons.
Eurofighter : 9 tons.

Max. range :
Su-30MKI : 3000 kms.
Rafale : 1,800 kms.
Eurofighter : 1,390 kms.

Thus, only the difference of range is present amongst Rafale/Typhoon with respect to the Su-30MKI, whereas the weapon-loads are comparable.

1) Now the purpose of MRCA is not to obtain only a slight enhancement of weapon-load in the inventory of fighters.
Thus, without suggesting that Su-30 can be MRCAs, with respect to Rafale & Typhoon, the Su-30 MKI can be a much more cost-effective fighter because, despite its max. weapon-load capacity of 8 tons being close to Rafale & Typhoon and having nearly twice the combat-range, its price is lesser than their's.

2) For ranges upto 1,800 kms, the Su-30 MKI may not be an "overkill", because the operational costs for even that reduced range shall be far lesser than Rafale, Typhoon and F-18.

Thus, the 2 points above may prove conclusively that medium planes of 6-8 ton category (like Gripen & F-16s) may be preferred by the IAF, otherwise there would have been no requirement to procure planes like the Rafale and Typhoon, which have very similar specifications to that of the Su-30MKI---a plane which is already in service with the IAF.


Thus, I agree that the purpose of the MRCA is to procure a medium category plane only i.e. a fighter of the 6-8 ton category like the Gripen and F-16.

Besides, regardless of political compulsions, the logistic "burden" of inducting an unfamiliar plane like Typhoon or F-18 into the IAF may be large. The IAF is one of the most diverse air-forces globally and in the ensuing trend to "streamline" fighter types, it may be unlikely that unfamiliar western planes may be prefered.

Thus, from all the above aspects, Tejas may meet MRCA requirements fully as it is in the 6-8 ton category, its infrastructure has firm base in India (because it is indigenous), it shall have no risk of lacunae in time/quality of procurement of spare-parts & maintenance, and it shall not be subject to any political "fall-outs" like sanctions etc.

Thank you.

Abhiman said...

Hello again Mr Shiv. I would like to know your views on the following development, and its effect on the MRCA contract :- As per informed sources on Pakistani discussion boards, 2 JF-17 fighters have been delivered to Pakistan by China and they are to be publicly displayed on March 23.
It may be apparent that Russian assurances to India in January, against the supply of RD-93 engines to Pakistan have been false.

Thus, it must be even more necessary that the selection of the MRCA must be made by the IAF only, and not by also factoring politics along with requirments.
The IAF's requirements for the MRCA must be "final & binding" on the Ministry of Defence.


Sir, in an earlier comment you had mentioned that and I quote, "The IAF has cosied upto the F-18 and Rafale because of newfound geopolitical situations...", end quote.

In this regard, it may be mentioned that the purchase of foreign MRCA planes---especially unfamiliar planes that haven't served in the IAF previously like F-18, Gripen etc.---may not be able to be integrated easily in the IAF due to the overhead of setting an entirely new and largely unfamiliar logistics support infrastructure for them.

Also, the risk of sanctions being imposed by the supplier nations on spare-parts may be high, especially in case of US & Swedish* planes.

Thus, from the above only the Tejas may be able to "steer clear" from the potential risks of a)sanctions and b)logistic support.

I think that it may be apparent that to be "immune" from such political events like Russian provision of RD-93 engines to Pakistan, threat of sanctions, the indigenous Tejas may be the optimum choice for MRCA.

Thank you.

Abhiman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abhiman said...

I will be informal in my posts here onwards.

As per this news report : http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2007-03/12/content_5837246.htm
2 JF-17s have been delivered to Pakistan in the beginning of March.

As an "afterthought", if only hypothetically, were the JF-17 open to consideration by the IAF, I am certain that it may have been sent an RFP because it weighs a "healthy" 6.5 tons (because it is fully-metal), and is in between the sizes of Gripen and F-16.
Compared to Gripen's 8, it has 9 weapon stations (actually on 7 pylons, with the 2nd & 6th having dual launchers) and has a conventional avionics package.

Till now, the correlation between empty-weight and the performance envelop of a fighter is unclear to me. I agree that obviously a fighter of an empty-weight of 18 tons will have a weapon-load of 8-9 tons and an equivalent fuel-load (on account of its size), but whether empty-weight need be so "minutely sifted" like the decimals of the marks of board results to admit students ?

What I mean to say is that the IAF has strictly categorized fighters in the 6-8 ton, 8-10 and 10-14 ton categories. Now, Tejas being a 5.5 ton weighing plane probably missed the 6 ton 'psychological' milestone by 0.5 tons.

But by all available data, its specifications are no less than that of any fighter in the 6-8 ton class (especially Gripen) because of composites, which reduced its weight and hence increased the efficiency of its engine, whilst simultaneously making it structurally stronger than were it a fully-metallic fighter. Structurally it is nearly as strong as the 1 ton heavier Gripen.

It is by this field of view from the "blinkers" of 6-8 ton, that the Tejas may have been obstructed from side-view, but the JF-17 makes it.

I am certain that the "LCA" nomenclature of the Tejas was meant to be ceased after former PM Mr. A B Vajpayee christened it Tejas. However, like the proprietary aspirin or walkman, the term LCA was continued to be used. Unlike Walkman and Aspirin which were proprietary names that became common, LCA is a generic term which became a proper noun.

However, it is incorrect because the official website of the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer also describes it as an LCA. In comparison, the Tejas is not a trainer but a full-fledged fighter plane. So by this basis, it cannot even be called as an LCA. However interestingly the Xinhua report which I posted at the beginning of this comment refers to the JF-17s delivered to Pakistan as "advanced multi-role light combat aircraft." So although not directly, but "obscurely" and "inadvertently" this negates Tejas' candidature for the MRCA tender.

Mr. Shiv I request that if you interview any senior official from the IAF in the future (probably even the ACM) please do include this question in your itinerary of questions :- If an RFP can be sent to the under-development Typhoon, and if an RFP can be sent to the Gripen, then why is not an RFP being sent to the Tejas ?
I would definitely want to know the response.

Thanks.

Abhiman said...

Mihir Shah, the following image labels the load-capacities of each pylon of the Tejas :

http://www.lca-tejas.org/images/lcaweapup8.jpg

The total load capcity of the Tejas is thus 5,700 kgs however, assuming that these max. loadings may be permitted simultaneously on all the pylons.


As per the offcial website of the ADA, the external loads of the Gripen can be >4000 kgs. Upon a max. TOW of 12,500 kgs, empty weight of 5,500 kgs and internal fuel of upto 2486kgs, the maximum external-load may be estimated at 5,500 kgs. In my view, this capacity is quite acceptable for a fighter of the weight-class of Tejas, is comparable to Gripen-C, and the MiG-29K. Though the max. external load of the MiG-35 is reportedly 6,500 kgs, it may be unlikely that a 1000kg difference may be very significant.


The official website of ADA mentions that >4000 kgs. of external load can be carried by the Tejas. Thus, the existing missiles may be under-utilizing the maximum load-capacity that can be withstood by each pylon.


The >4000 kg weight may be a fighter-configuration loading because the max. capacity of 5,500 kg may never be permitted at all, because simultaneous loading of each pylon to its max. capacity may not be possible.
However, the same may then apply to the other advertised max. external loadings of the Gripen-C and the MiG-35 also, thus maintaining the same comparison vis-a-vis Gripen-C and roughly the same difference as compared to the MiG-35.

Thanks.

References :

http://www.lca-tejas.org/weapons.html
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/NAVY/MiG-29K.html

Anonymous said...

Talking about the Kaveri, perhaps you must realize that even china, with its vast experience in aircraft design, has yet to produce a single fighter aircraft engine, and is using russian engines for its J-10. Granted, GTRE may have been biting more than it could chew and was unwilling to admit it, as well as the project probably being mismanaged. However, that doesnt take away from the fact that it has been our first attempt at this tech.

Secondly, the govt has issued RFI only for the 2000-5, Gripen, F-18, Mig-35 and F-16. Rafale and Typhoon have entered of their own volition, and the Dassault have removed the 2000-5 from the race.

Abhiman said...

Regarding the previous comment, it may be mentioned that RFP may be sent to those manufacturers also, who were not sent the RFI.

In my view, the Tejas may still have a "fighting chance" probability of getting an RFP issued to HAL if the IAF decides in its favour.


The Tejas might be favoured over twin-engined contenders in consonance with the following statement made by Mr. Lemkin, US deputy under secretary of the air force in New Delhi on 17 Mar, 2007 :

"Lemkin, in fact, wondered even why the IAF was considering aircraft like the F-18 when the RFI was for a single-engine jet, Question which the F-16 is, even as he hastened to add that the competitor was a "wonderful aircraft".

"The RFI was for a single-engine medium-role attack fighter which the F-16 is and the F-18 is not. India needs a jet to complement the SU-30. So, if you are looking at heavier jets (like the F-16, which aircraft are you looking to replace?" he asked.


Thus, it may be unclear why heavier twin-engined fighters like Rafale & Eurofighter (external payloads greater than Su-30 MKI), F-18 and the MiG-35 are now being considered by the IAF.

The non-IFR ranges of Rafale, Typhoon and F-18 may approach that of "normally fuelled" Su-30MKI. The Rafale can accomodate an internal-fuel load of 4,500 kgs and an external load of over 9,000 kgs (can include fuel). In comparison, Su-30 has a normal internal-fuel load of 5,500 kgs and an external load of 8,000kgs.

Now the MKI's ext payload decreases to 5,270 kgs only, if the internal-fuel is increased to 9,400 kgs (presumably being stored at high-pressure). So, a much larger range of over 3,000 kms is provided by the Su-30, upon an internal capacity of 9,400 kgs (with accompanying reduced manoeuverability, and reduced external load to 5,200 kgs). The Rafale, Typhoon and F-18 may approach this range too upon IFR. So, are entirely new planes indeed required which only do not have high-pressure internal fuel-load to extend ranges upto 3,000 kms, and whose performance is comparable to that of "normally fuelled" Su-30s ?


Thus, there is hardly any practical difference between the "normally fuelled" Su-30 and Rafale in terms of most performance characteristics. This may be extended to Typhoon and the F-18 E/F also.


In my view, the initial RFI as sent by IAF for single-engined fighters indicated a smaller-range "complement" to the Su-30 MKI. Thus planes like F-16 and Gripen have ranges of upto 1,200-1,300 kms and weapon loads of 5.5 to >6 tons respectively.

Now Tejas also has a max. allowed external loading of 5.5 tons and a range equivalent to Gripen.

Thus in cognizance of initial RFI specifications, the fact that all twin-engined contenders almost approach the Su-30 MKI in performance, and that Tejas shall never be sanction-prone, very cheap with high liquidity in logistic management (on account of being indigenous), it not only deserves an RFP for MRCA tender, but I think that it is the best contender for the MRCA contract.

Thank you.

References :
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/NEWS/India/F-16_fighter_best_suited_for_IAF_US_official/RssArticleShow/articleshow/1774427.cms
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su-27
http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/rafale/