Thursday, October 29, 2009

[Vishnu Som] Update On Boeing Super Hornet Pitch

Boeing and its F/A-18 industry partners Raytheon, GE and Northrop-Grumman held a press conference in Delhi on Wednesday. Friend and NDTV associate editor VISHNU SOM was there and has been kind enough to send LiveFist this update on what happened:

As far as the transfer of source codes for AESA is concerned, Boeing is still at the "can't discuss in an open forum, lets see how this plays out" mode. At the same time, the fact that India has agreed to the US end user agreement during Hillary Clinton's visit here means that the full-up Super Hornet IN, inclusive of the upgraded GE F414 engine, the APG-79 AESA and other key systems are cleared for transfer. So it's quite possible that the version of the AESA offered will be full-spec. In fact, I am sure, India would not accept anything less than that.

Secondly, February 2010 is the big date for the IAF and the next phase of the Hornet There will be an evaluation of the following: 1. Mission systems flight evaluation 2. AESA 3. FLIR 4. EW 5. Weapon delivery 6. Maintenance evaluation 7. Technical evaluation.

All this will be done at the Naval Air Station Lemoore in California, the same base from where I flew the second of my Super Hornet sorties. Boeing reps repeatedly state that the AESA will be evaluated in conjunction with other systems, ie, the data link, FLIR etc to showcase the full package.

As far as AESA is concerned, the Boeing-Raytheon team seemed to take on their European rivals who are still developing/integrating their product. They explained how it took eight years for the APG-79 to move from low rate initial production to first operational deployment. The dates are as follows: June 2003 Low rate initial production / December 2006 Operational evaluation completed / December 2007 Initial Operational clearance & Full scale production approval and May 2008 First operational deployment.

The APG-79 has 1,000-hours mean time between failures (MTBF), more than 75,000 operational flight hours, it's been approved for sale to India and will be sustained in US service beyond 2035. The proposed GE F414 EPE (Enhanced Performance Engine) for India offers a 20 per cent increase in thrust and a 1 per cent reduction in fuel burn. The F414 is itself in the 22,000-lb thrust class, 170 lb/second airflow. Engine change is done in under 30 minutes, interchangeable left and right engine installation. No need for a functional check flight after engine change. No throttle restrictions while in operation (I have personally witnessed this, it's amazing -- you can pretty much do what you want with the throttle, slam it to burner and take it back as much as you want ... nothing happens).

Boeing says it WILL offer the Indian Air Force an out and out 9G fighter -- this has been a promise made by the Boeing team. I was led to believe this involves changes in the flight control system, though the airframe itself is OK for 9G.

The pitch -- this is a rugged, proven, operational platform, which is now available to India at a cost NOT too much over its single engine competitors in the MMRCA race. As far as their performance in the trials in Bangalore are concerned, they say that they are satisfied with what they were able to demonstrate to the Indian Air Force but reiterate that its the IAF which has to be satisfied. Thats it for the moment folks.


Anonymous said...

We need to have a taste of the American technology and specificaly AESA should be in the bucket list.More over IAF should also think of other aircraft other than the american one's to increase the multi role strength at a very rapid pace.Quantity and Quality both count.India should take both into account.India should maintain uptodate 1000+ aircraft's at all times.

NJS said...

I believe F-18 Super Hornet will give real edge to China/Pak. almost f-18 could be selected , if it goes more than 126 nos in mmrca , india need to select Mig-35 without TOT .

Mantikos said...

I am glad Boeing is serious about this. In my opinion (and we all know...'opinions are like...' (so if you don't like mine, go sniff elsewhere) the F-18 represents an excellent chioce from a technical and strategic standpoint. Hope the F-18 wins!

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I really don't understand why the IAF must maintain so many different types of aircraft - Mig-21/27/29, Su-30, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 and now maybe one more type!!

Cant we just have two types? Order more squadrons of SU-30s and try to bring in the LCA at the earliest? Phase out or sell off all the other types.

Anyway all the older types are just crashing every other month, so why not just get rid of them and make some money in the process as well?

su30 said...

Su 30 is heavy weight version , IAF is looking for medium weight category , more over LCA mk 2 will take more years to come , upto now engines itself have not been selected . I am really proud & happy , when our own fighter comes to field .

Anonymous said...

Hello Everyone,
Onlything that bother me is the trust factor. Cant they ground all our MMRCA fleet incase of a sanction (like what they did to Iran) ??? Knowing this why would we ever want to go for such aircraft. nevertheless, Super Hornet is a brilliant aircraft which will make all our enemy think twice beofre they act. around 150 of these birds stationed on various base will deftly bring shiver down Paki & Chinese spine. I just cant wait to hear who wins.



Ju² said...

Hi folks,
Hard to make a clear idea about what MMRCA program really is, isn't it? Is it a medium for DRDO/industry to find a new partner for technological development and big ToTs? Or is it a medium for Govt to formalize a crucial defense alliance?

Tell me if you disagree, but I think that if it was the second option, I wouldn't understand the pertinence of dealing with the US. The risk here is to lose an important part of power at the regional level. China, like India, are the two main powers of the Asian area. Can India show signs that it subcontracts its defense to the US? Because it will be seen like that... and IAF is acquiring a full US panoply.

However, if India is seeking a technical partner, the other contenders would be more indicated. As far as AESA radar is concerned, the US won't transfer anything else than source codes because they cannot do more. Hence the fact that the Pentagon asked Raytheon and Northrop to develop more 'locked' AESA radars for export duty, such as the SABR and the RANGR.

It is only an opinion, but dealing with the Russian or the European would be far much easier thanks to less constraining exports rules. Concerning European AESA radars, I am not sure the technical gap is as important as Raytheon pretends.

Do not think that I am basically anti-American, but I don't think the SH would be a pertinent solution. First, ToTs will probably be disappointing. Second, it is the same category in terms of weight than the Su-30MKI. Heavy, not 'medium'. If India absolutely wants to buy US planes, the F-16 would be a better choice... but Pakis are getting some good Block 52s.

Personally, I would find more pertinent (and also neutral) to opt for an European or Russian platform, in many aspects.

Your feelings?
;) Have a nice day, everyone!

Anonymous said...

The problem is not with the aircraft or its sensors, but the country USA, which has been financing Pakistan for over 50 years in efforts to dismember India.

You don't buy weapons from your enemies. Simple as that. It is better to buy a 'weaker' plane from Saab that will work rather than a very competent plane from US whose AESA radar will mysteriously stop working in a conflict with US pet Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Any one complaining about "too many types of aircraft" basically wants to increase India's dependence on Foreign countries. Imagine having 200 or more F-18SuperHornets and then getting them grounded under sanctions.

The logical thing is not to have too may varieties of aircraft FROM SAME COUNTRY.

ONLY those countries who make their planes themselves make up entire fleets out of 1 or 2 types of planes OR small countries OR ARABS.

As for f18, not asking for open source AESA codes would set a negative example that it is ok not to do ToT in sales to India. Agree to it at our own peril.

Also F18's high drag comes from straight wing needed by their Navy to give higher lift. IAF does not need that. Ask Boeing to reduce this drag by giving greater slant to the wings and give a wing shape similar to f16s. It should not take them long because of years of plane designing experience. F18's pathetic agility is a problem. Make them work, don't give contracts on a silver platter.

Anonymous said...

the f-16 has already won the competetion, only the formalities are being worked out. i don't know what boeing is hoping for.............seriously !!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

If the undercarriage was strengthened for naval operations' landing on aircraft-carrier leading to weight penalties then why can't weight be reduced by de-strengthening the undercarriage of F18 SH for Air-Force operations ??? Redundant thicknesses of sheet metal can always be shaved keeping the other dimensions constant.

Anonymous said...

As some people have noted from a technological standpoint there are few common minimum bars that are stated just so that the IAF gets a good bird. Strategically, the GoI has to balance the imbalance so that we are not overly dependent on a single country for our hardware until such a point where we are self-sufficient. For the IAF itself, this translates to not having a similar aircraft since strategies are also based on the aircrafts you have and the potential enemy might already be aware of this. From that angle, EF, SH and Rafale seem the best contentders...

ELP said...

Good comments.

Super is a good safe strike aircraft, and yes the Block II avionics are excellent.

Important to consider that "enhanced" motor or not, the jet is slow and draggy. Slower than just about any fighter design since the 1960s.

Also note that the SUU-79 pylons for mounting stores on the wing are pointing outboard about 4 degrees? Why? Poor development in the design early on. This is a slap-dash fix so as not to redesign the whole wing, as when it was developed they discovered that with straight pylons, weapons and stores would risk bouncing into each other. This fix of pointing the pylons outward fixed that however it created a lot of drag and reduced airframe hours on some weapons when hung.

But you already have air superiority handled. This would make a good safe strike aircraft that will serve you well.... IF one can get over what is already mentioned..... sovereignty. If you don't play ball with the U.S. you get your U.S. origin aircraft grounded in the event of an embargo. This, is unacceptable for any defence purchase decision.