Navy may need 100 locally made deck-based fighters | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Navy may need 100 locally made deck-based fighters

Feb 15, 2023 06:13 AM IST

The first prototype of the twin engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF) could make its maiden flight by 2026 and be ready for production by 2031

A proposal to design and develop an indigenous deck-based fighter for the Indian Navy is likely to be taken up by the Cabinet Committee on Security soon, with the navy’s requirement expected to around 100 aircraft, senior officials familiar with the development said at Aero India 2023 on Tuesday.

A mock-up of the TEDBF at Aero India 2023. (HT)
A mock-up of the TEDBF at Aero India 2023. (HT)

The first prototype of the twin engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF) could make its maiden flight by 2026 and be ready for production by 2031, said Girish S Deodhare, director general, Aeronautical Development Agency. The navy is looking at importing a new deck-based fighter as an interim measure to meet its requirements before the indigenous TEDBF is ready. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited will produce the new fighter at the rate of eight aircraft per year, the officials said.

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The French Rafale M fighter has edged out the American F/A-18 Super Hornet in a direct competition to equip the navy with 26 new deck-based fighters for INS Vikrant, the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier. The navy currently has two aircraft carriers – INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya.

The TEDBF will match the capabilities of Rafale M and F/A-18 Super Hornet, Deodhare said. The Rafale is manufactured by Dassault Aviation while the Super Hornet is a Boeing product.

“The expertise gained in developing the light combat aircraft (navy) will come in handy for the TEDBF project. It’s currently in the preliminary design stage and should move forward quickly. The wing folding design mechanism (to ensure the plane takes minimum space on an aircraft carrier) has been finalised,” Deodhare said.

To be sure, LCA (navy) is only a technology demonstrator but it showcases that India has developed niche technologies specific to deck-based fighter operations, and it will pave the way to develop and manufacture the TEDBF.

Last week, the LCA (navy) landed and took off from INS Vikrant for the first time. Two LCA (navy) prototypes are currently operating from the aircraft carrier as part of ongoing flight trials. Vikrant was commissioned into the navy last September, marking a pivotal point in the country’s quest for self-reliance in the defence sector. The flight trials on board INS Vikrant also involve the Russian-origin MiG-29K fighter jets that use the ski-jump to takeoff and are recovered by arrestor wires or what is known as STOBAR (short takeoff but arrested recovery) in navy parlance.

INS Vikramaditya also operates MiG-29K fighters. LCA (navy) landed and took off from Vikramaditya for the first time in August 2020.

Vikrant, which has an indigenous content of 76%, will operate an air wing consist of 30 aircraft. The 45,000-tonne Vikrant has been built at Cochin Shipyard at a cost of 20,000 crore. Only the US, the UK, Russia, France and China have the capability to build aircraft carriers this size. It has been named after aircraft carrier INS Vikrant operated by the navy from 1961 to 1997.

A second indigenous aircraft carrier to project India’s maritime power in the far seas is also on the navy’s radar.

“We are still working on some aspects of IAC-2 like what size it should be and what are the capabilities desired. But right now, we have put a hold on it (IAC-2) because we have just commissioned the Vikrant and are quite happy with the ship. We are examining whether we should look at a repeat order for IAC-1 (Vikrant) instead of going for IAC-2 to capitalise on the expertise gained during the former’s construction. We are in the discussion stage right now,” navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said in December 2022.

INS Vikramaditya was bought second-hand from Russia for $2.33 billion. The navy has been arguing it needs three such floating airfields given its vast area of interest.

Vikrant is the fourth aircraft carrier to be operated by the Indian Navy --- first Vikrant (British origin) from 1961 to 1997, INS Viraat (British origin) from 1987 to 2016 and INS Vikramaditya 2013 onwards.

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