Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tejas Naval Version Is An Unfortunate Necessity For India

Tejas Naval version was recently in the news for all the wrong reasons. Specially when the Navy Chief took on DRDO for failing to meet the deadlines for the Naval version. It is indeed true that in the Royal mess of the whole Tejas saga, Naval version ia a glorious chapter of missed deadlines, unfulfilled promises and general lackadaisical attitude typical of Indian Government Sector

Speaking to The Hindu at Port Blair, Admiral Verma has been quoted as saying, "They [ADA] focused largely on the Air Force programme and the LCA [Navy] did fall behind…. There have been many promises made by the ADA but they failed us... It is often said that there is only 15 per cent difference between both versions. The Navy has always maintained that it may be 15 per cent in terms of material and systems, but it is a substantial part. And they [ADA] underestimated it."

This is not the only time Tejas Naval version has come in for criticism. Even IAF officer's have been highly critical of the program and expect it to be scrapped.

The naval variant will feature
  • Arrestor hook
  • Drooped nose for better cockpit visibility
  • LEVCONS and fore plane to reduce landing speed
  • Auxiliary air-intakes
  • Strengthened undercarriage and fuselage and a fuel dump system.
  • Auto throttle function reduces pilot load by maintaining constant angle of attack during the critical phase of a flare-less carrier landing
  • Fuel Dump System enables safe landing by reducing weight in event of an emergency landing immediately after launch from Carrier

  • Maximum T/O from a carrier will be restricted to 12.5 tons, with the max external load being reduced to 3.5 tons.

    LCA Naval Problems
    At the roll-out of the first Naval LCA NP1 AT Bengaluru on July 6, 2010, ADA Director, Dr P.S. Subrahmanyam, said the aircraft aircraft still needs to shed 400 kg and the landing gear has to be perfected.

    Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Srinivasapuram Krishnaswamy wrote in a newspaper column, "A naval variant of the LCA seems unlikely to ever land on a ship’s deck. It may probably need a new engine apart from lots of testing and modifications. There is little demonstrated stamina to take these risks."

    Looking at this kind of pessimism many of my readers have emailed me their opinion that we should scrap the naval version of Tejas and go for modern air-crafts from western countries or Russia. The readers choice is with F-35(B/C), Grippen, Mig-29K, Naval Typhoon. While these planes are extra-ordinary in their advertised potency, unfortunately they are all "DREAM MACHINES" except for Mig-29K(outdated) none of the planes exist except on paper.

    Lets take the example of F-35B. The US Navy does not want it and they are only accepting this air-craft due to the immense pressure being put by the civilian administration. It's gained weight during development, but more importantly, the Navy isn't sure that the capabilities it provides are what they want to spend more money on. It's tempting to scrap it and go with an alternative, from a company with recent carrier-jet experience. The obstacle is a headstrong Secretary of Defense who's staked his reputation on the joint program, but the signals are clear: the moment he's gone the Navy's going to bail.

    On 6 January 2011, Gates said that the 2012 budget would call for a two year pause in F-35B production during which the aircraft may be redesigned, or canceled if unsuccessful. Gates stated, "If we cannot fix this variant during this time frame, and get it back on track in terms of performance, cost and schedule, then I believe it should be canceled." The probation was ended by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on 20 January 2012 because of progress made over the past year.

    Problem with going in for either F-35B or F/A-18 is the binding and humiliating contract which we will have to sign. Basically it will be the US command which will give us permission to operate these machinery if it fits in their strategic view. Unfortunately that is not something which is acceptable to India thus you can forget about any American fighters coming to India in the near future.

    The second problem we have forgotten is the problem with STOVL and STOBAR vs CATOBAR configuration. India does not have any operational STOBAR Aircraft Carriers but the next generation will be all STOBAR including the GORSHKOV. While the current AC in service is STOVL.

    There are three main configurations of aircraft carrier in service in the world's navies, divided by the way in which aircraft take off and land:

    Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) - these carriers generally carry the largest, heaviest, and most heavily armed aircraft, although smaller CATOBAR carriers may have other limitations (weight capacity of aircraft elevator, etc.). Three nations currently operate carriers of this type: the United States, France, and Brazil for a total of thirteen in service and potentially two more when the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth class is complete.

    Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) - these carriers are generally limited to carrying lighter fixed-wing aircraft with more limited payloads. STOBAR carrier airwings, such as the Sukhoi Su-33 and future Mikoyan MiG-29K wings of the Admiral Kuznetsov are often geared primarily towards the air superiority and fleet defense roles rather than strike/power projection tasks which require heavier payloads (bombs, air-to-ground missiles). Currently, only Russia possesses an operational carrier of this type, with India and China each preparing a similar carrier.

    Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) - limited to carrying STOVL aircraft. STOVL aircraft, such as the Harrier Jump Jet family and Yakovlev Yak-38 generally have very limited payloads, lower performance, and high fuel consumption when compared with conventional fixed wing aircraft; however, newer STOVL aircraft such as the F-35 have much improved performance. This type of aircraft carrier is operated by India, Spain, and Italy with five in active service; the UK and Thailand each have one active carrier but without any operational STOVL aircraft in inventory. Some also count the nine US Amphibious Assault ships in their secondary light carrier role boosting the overall total to sixteen.

    Now we have limited options... F-35B which is still going through trials and is a bloody costly machine...comes with dog collar and leash, Mig-29K are out-dated and not in production anywhere. Or go for Rafale-M which again works on CATOBAR carrier De-Gaul.F/A-18 are too heavy for STOVL/STOBAR carriers.

    So my friends you tell me if we can afford to scrap Naval Tejas when we have only one aircraft available for all our future AC's?