Saturday, June 07, 2008

Limited Combat Aircraft

I didn't make up that name. It's a name a whole bunch of folks at Vayu Bhawan are calling the LCA Tejas now. As the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) crunches numbers on the hot weather trials recently concluded over Nagpur, the Tejas engine drama is rapidly assuming farcical proportions. A section of the air force has begun building a proper case for one among either the Eurojet EJ200 or the General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans. If the connection hasn't stood up and smacked you in the face already, here it is: both of these engines currently power contenders in the medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition -- the EADS Typhoon and the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet respectively.

With the Kaveri turbofan firmly on the backburner, such as it is, both Eurojet and General Electric have made presentations to the ADA. But the ADA and HAL are both steeply skeptical about claims from both engine houses that housing either the EJ200 or F414 would imply only minor modifications to the airframe. Both EADS and Boeing too have incidentally jumped at the chance to informally plug the makers of the engines that push their planes.

The logic is undeniable. A single engine type powering lots and lots of follow-on LCAs and the 126 MMRCA jets would be a proposition too attractive for anyone to ignore. This appears to be a good part of the logic that's driving interest in a full-up foreign engine for the any Tejas fighters beyond the first 40. The first 40 will be stuck with their F404-IN20s. The other option is to get either Snecma or NPO Saturn to stick their fingers into GTRE and bail out, at considerable expense, the floundering Kaveri. Whichever way it goes, one hopes a decision is taken soon. The LCA's goalposts are around the corner.


Anonymous said...

Actually the title should be Indian Arse Force.

anirban said...

great !! absolutely great !!

LCA is in exalted company indeed !!

the same epithet can be applied to the RAFALE, the EUROFIGHTER and the F-35 LIGHTNING II.

ALL those aircrafts went/will go into service with their respective air forces with a [b]very limited[/b] capability, much more limited than the LCA, in fact.
e.g RAFALE is yet to be mated with laser designation pod, something the LCA will have from day 1 !!
add to that the fact that these countries have put in about the same time and much much more funding into these projects and you will start getting a REAL perspective into the achievements of the LCA project !!

Anonymous said...

Just compare the last two articles by the author. This is what the media has done - blowing out of proportion the smallest of the successes and failures. Worst part is the sensationalizing.

I feel the EJ engine is better than GE's - technically and politically..

I agree with Anirban that complex projects take time. I also know for sure that guys at ADA and DRDO know more than the readers and the writers of news... No Offense!

Anonymous said...

LSP-2 will fly GE-404 IN20 which has greater power than GE-404 F2J3 the current aircraft are flying. All these articles are nothing but anti-LCA propaganda who want to delay the LCA further.

Anonymous said...

bejeezus anon, you think ada has selected the IN20 without knowing its performance/thrust parameters?? get yourself a tutorial, cretin. the IN20 still cant push out thrust that meets ASRs, similar to the F2j3. i agree there's a lot of unnecessary anti-LCA propaganda all over the bloody place, but be reasonable. the in20 does not cut it either. to suggest that these guys will only know the in20's thrust ratings once it flies with the LSP-2 is to suggest they are idiots who don't know what they've bought from ge (which could be true! but i somehow doubt that)

Anonymous said...

So they were stupid to select the IN20 in the first place? is that what you suggest?

Anonymous said...

of course they were stupid to select the IN20. it serves no purpose at all. its afterburning thrust is still only 85kN (after uprating from the F2J3), so it still doesn't meet ASRs. and please read GE's press release:

F404-GE-IN20 Engines Ordered for India Light Combat Aircraft
February 07, 2007 -- BANGALORE, INDIA -- Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has ordered an additional 24 F404-GE-IN20 afterburning engines to power the first operational squadron of Tejas fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force. Value of the order is in excess of $100 million and follows an initial 2004 purchase of 17 F404-GE-IN20 engines to power a limited series of operational production aircraft and naval prototypes.

Earlier this year, the F404-GE-IN20 was trial-installed in Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as part of final evaluations toward flight-testing, scheduled for mid-2007. The F404-IN-20 engine has generated more than 19,000 pounds (85 kN) uninstalled thrust and has completed 330 hours of Accelerated Mission testing, which is the equivalent of 1,000 hours of flight operation.

The F404-GE-IN20 succeeds F404-F2J3 development engines used for nearly 600 flights, cumulatively covering eight engines.

Based on the F404-GE-402, the F404-GE-IN20 is the highest rated F404 model and includes a higher-flow fan, increased thrust, a Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) system, single-crystal turbine blades and a variety of single-engine features.

The F404 fighter engine family is one of the most successful in military aviation history. More than 4,000 F404 engines power a number of combat aircraft flown by the United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, plus countries throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.

GE Aviation, an operating unit of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), is one of the world's leading manufacturers of jet engines for civil and military aircraft. GE also is a world-leading provider of maintenance and support services for jet engines.

Anonymous said...

In all this shit hitting the fan no one points out to the fact that the air force changed the weapons config of LCA twice.First time it led to redesign of the wings, and now leading to LCA being underpowered. That' shifting goal posts.Its like saying that once the air intakes have been redesigned the whole flight envelope would have to be revisited to get F414 integrated, after that air force would again change the weapon specs. To talk limited and point fingers at ADA is fine but no one seems to any offer realistic solutions as to what should be done.

Shiv Aroor said...

i agree with anon. the IAF's role in this thrust predicament shouldn't be underplayed. when goalposts were shifted, as they repeatedly were by the IAF, there should have been an integrated approach to the aircraft. but let's be clear about shifting goalposts as well. the IAF has a pretty robust explanation for altering QRs mid-stream.

Abhiman said...

Mr. Aroor, I disagree with your view as no number of "robust" explanations can avoid delays -- something against which the IAF has spoken publicly earlier. Just as a gadget like a cell-phone or laptop purchased 6 months ago may no longer be "latest" today, so also the IAF must accept the Tejas AS IT IS CURRENTLY.

In my view, ADA and DRDO must sign an MoU or clause with the IAF prior to the start of any project, that force the IAF to accept and acknowledge, that mid-stream changes will incur additional costs and time over and above the estimates/allocations, and for which the IAF must be wholly liable. The same is the practice in the software industry and civil engineering industry.

Now regarding the issue of lack of thrust in Tejas, it may still be doubtful whether the IAF is dissatisfied over the F2J3 alone or even the IN 20. This is because, the F2J3 has a wet thrust of only 78 kN, whereas IN 20 has 85 kN -- a 9% increase over the F2J3.

Hence, it may be possible that the MoD may have only judged it by the fact that both are GE - F404, but the designations F2J3 and IN20 may have escaped their attention.

However, I would like to know if the IAF has sufficiently evaluated the IN 20 installed on the Tejas, because as per a news report an IN 20 was installed on the Tejas for the first time last month only.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

abe aroor start posting under your own name instead of this anon business. your posting style is so familiar "get a tutorial cretin" indeed

Anonymous said...

Abhiman has put my thoughts in the right words. That is what my point is. Is the media not able to differentiate between the two 404s or is the shortfall so drastic that we need an engine like 414. The other point being has this change been brought about by the change in ASR in 2003? That is they have given the vicious circle another turn?
More capability needed right away being the stupid argument put forward. Something they didnt even demand from the Mig-21 too.

Anonymous said...

In Vayu Bhawan, all they're good for is vayu, and coming up with clever names like "Limited Combat Aircraft". I'm amazed at their immaturity. By the looks of it, these buffoons who seem to know nothing of how engineering projects work, are sabotaging the LCA for a mere 5% shortfall in engine performance. Losers! Learn to fight with indigenous weapons and win, you sons-of-a-gun! You want to buy foreign maal so you can get your bribes and send your children to study in Europe and America. In some other countries these traitors would be lined up and shot.

Devendra said...

While china plans to transition in to indigenous combat aircraft industry after succesive generations of similar projects with missing thrust and payload.

Any aviation enthus here remember how the soviets made thousands of planes that had the preformance missing, and improved them with time, to reach where they eventually reached.

Have people just thrown history lessons out of the window?

If the indian military establishment wants to follow the American model they will have trouble in one thing: living in a third world developing nation.

Anonymous said...

Let them call whatever names they want to. These guys just don't understand that to be self-reliant even the Super-powers accept their own products which are not perfect in every sense. Look at US Navy, it will never take Rafale-Marine to substitute its own F-18 Super Hornets. Russia does not MKI-ize its Su-30 in its air-force with French components despite MKI being superior. Europeans have not junked Eurofighter despite this being an era of Stealth. Gandhiji talked of Self-reliance and yet we are the ones who least understand it.

Arun said...

I dont understand the Indian defence establishment at all. I think the air force keeps changing its ASR.
But the funny thing is....the Gripen is powered by the same F-404 engine as the tejas.....hmm.. and the gripen actually weighs about the same as the tejas....and its got similar avionics and weapons capabilities....and the funnier thing is....the gripen NG finds itself on the MRCA tender, while the LCA is shunned...interesting...I guess everyone should notice a pattern here....same thing happened with the Arjun tank...
Look at the chinese, they took what their industry couuld give did not have to be world beating....but all the J-10 had to do was be good enough...but alas the LCA has to be better than the F-22....which if you ask me is just ridiculous....oh by the way....the air force thinks the LCA is overweight....well....even the F-35 lightning 2 has a thrust to weight of less than 1...and the gripen too( at max takeoff weight) the LCA has a thrust to weight of less than 1 at max takeoff weight... but if you consider an interception mission, the plane would take off with about 80% fuel and about 2000 kg max in air to air that would mean the LCA would have the same power to weight ratio as the gripen...and the gripen is twice as just dont understand why we Indians do this to ourselves...given ...the kaveri failed....hell..its the first real attempt by Indian engineers at making a jet engine....the swedes with their decades of experience still do not have their own jet engine....Well...ADA could easily redesign the LCA for adopting the F414 which provides much more thrust...well the IAF wants 120KN thrust....for what?? to go into orbit?? the 98KN that the f414 will provide would be adequate...and by the way...the exterior dimensions of the f414 and the f404 are nearly the same...the F414 needs more airflow....the intake will have to be redesigned....the redesign can be made to incorporate s flow pattern so that the plane becomes stealthier...and the fly by wire control laws will have to be modified.
Also the wing shape can be optimized, so that canards can be fitted... a pure delta has its advantages, but the canards will give it better performance at higher angles of attack...while providing good aerodynamic performance....So the ADA should do it. The Eurojet, though smaller and lighter, does not have the smae thrust as the 414, and is not as proven as the 414.. It could still be used....but we should try the 414 with a more comprehensive "NG" LCA. How do I know all of this...I am an engineer specialising in computational fluid dynamics...I did my Masters from the unversity of Michigan and I am working on high performance vehicles...Airplanes are my biggest passion. I think the LCA deserves better. I think the Mr. A.K Antony should force the IAF to use the LCA.
Jai Hind.

Arun said...

To add to my previous comment, I am attaching data from the GE website for the F414 and F404FJ23.
I do not know why the F414 cannot be incorporated into the LCA looking at the specifications.
It would mean airframe modifications, yes, for increased weight , increased airflow requirement, and modifications for increased fuel flow requirement, calibration for the increased thrust, etc...but I am an engineer, and I deal with changing things like this all the time.
So someone with political influence should do something about this....set this right now....order the new engines in the next few months....and then start testing with the new engines. The current configuration should be froaen for the 20 intial batch, so that the IAF can build the infrastructure required for supporting the Tejas. In the meantime, development can go on with the new engine, and as newer versions of the engine becomes available, ( reportedly, the 414 can be upgraded upto 30% with thrust increasing upto an awesome 120 KN) the newer engines can be added in Blocks.
The next version of the tejas should be the MK2, and then for the MK3, the airframe can be lengthened, and cannards be fitted, with increased payload and range.
That would be a good development cycle.
That would give enough time for the indigenous Kaveri to be developed fully, and once it is developed, it can be used as a replacement for the 414. That would mean changing the target thrust rating for the Kaveri to around 120 KN.
The Kaveri should also be developed with upgradability built in, so that thrust can be increased upto 140KN or so.
And the MCA project should go on in parallel with this, so that the MCA can use two F414s for the prototypes, and then use the Kaveri when it becomes available.
I think the DRDO and the IAF has to be more responsible and realistic, and give our industry and chance, with focus on EVOLUTIONARY development rather than trying to jump to the top rung of the ladder from the ground.
Compressor stages:3/7
Maximum dia(in) :35 Length (in) :154
Dry weight (lb) :2335
Compressor stages:3/7
Maximum dia(in) :35 Length (in) :154
Dry weight (lb) :2444