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.
Weapon delivery 6.
Maintenance evaluation 7.
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.