LOOKING AT THE INDIAN NAVY MRCBF DEAL AND N-LCA.

Recently Indian Chief Admiral said the following regarding the LCA Navy project:

We are committed to indigenisation. We have supported the LCA project and we will continue to support it.

The has already paid its share of costs for the LCA programme, which was around 40 per cent of the total project cost for Mark I of LCA, that is around Rs 600 crore. The is supposed to pay 60 per cent of the cost of the Mark II of LCA.

Indian has given around Rs 300 crore for the project, and the transfer of the remaining money is linked to the project’s milestones.

The carrier is due to be inducted in 2020. I need deck-based jet fighters by then. The LCA is nowhere on the horizon. At present, it cannot be operated from the deck. It still has to go through carrier compatibility trials; it is underpowered; it cannot take off with ordnance. I need a fighter which can operate from an aircraft carrier and is combat-capable

It is a good plane to fly, but what I need is a deck-based fighter that is combat- capable. We are committed to this project. As and when the Defence Research and Development Organisation and Aeronautical Development Agency produces an indigenous deck-based fighter jet, we are willing to induct it. The first carrier is designed to operate MiG29K and LCA, so we need deck-based fighters for it also.

So that still shows, that navy has not yet formally rejected the N-LCA. He made it clear they are committed to the MK-2 in navy and had rejceted MK-1.

Pre-reqisite before moving ahead:

Look at the pics above:

What you see are not Main stream media, Social Media fanboy BS, the sources are:

  • Loksabha Replies
  • Standing committee on Defence Report: 29

As official as it gets.

The date to which all these belongs to is March and April 2017. Quite a long time after the so called”Rejection of N-LCA” was made.

Regarding the 57 fighter jets tender, unfortunately many hurdles are going to come in this too:

  • This is one of the most technical on RFI:

Despite recent reports that the two Western MRCBF competitors could operate from INS Vikramaditya in addition to the Indian Navy’s future carriers, this is simply not possible. The converted Soviet-era ‘aircraft carrying cruiser’ has two aircraft elevators that are located within the flight deck, instead of on the deck-edges, and both are too small to accommodate either the Super Hornet or the Rafale. The larger forward lift, beside the carrier’s superstructure, is 18.8 x 9.9 metres, while the Super Hornet’s wings fold to just under 10 metres and the Rafale’s wings, slightly less than 11 metres wide, do not fold at all. The aft lift is narrower, with an 8.6-metre width that is barely able to fit the MiG-29K’s 7.5-metre folded span. The Naval LCA, with a wingspan of a little over eight metres, would certainly have fit the forward lift if not the aft one – the Navy prefers for aircraft carrier elevators to be sufficiently larger than the aircraft they will carry for ease of aircraft handling and movement.

The real ‘show stopper’ for the entire MRCBF requirement, however, is the configuration of IAC-1. Unlike Vikramaditya, and like most contemporary carriers, the aircraft lifts on IAC-1 are positioned on the starboard edge of the deck allowing longer aircraft to ‘hang out’ over the water with only their landing gear on the platform. But because the carrier was designed around an air wing of MiG-29Ks and Naval LCAs, the lifts were sized for wingspans no larger than eight metres. 10 x 14 metres, to be precise. While MiG-29Ks and N-LCAs can fit on these lifts with parts of their noses or empennages hanging over the edges, the Super Hornet and Rafale once again cannot.

Both Boeing and Dassault are apparently working on solutions to allow their aircraft to fit the lifts. Sources close to the programme said that Boeing is considering a system that would allow the Super Horner to sit canted on the lift, the tilt of the (folded) wings thereby resulting in a slightly shorter overall span measured parallel to the deck. With its fixed wings, the Rafale cannot offer such a solution, and Dassault is understood to be exploring a detachable wingtip, although this involves greater engineering and certification challenges.

Whatever the final form of the eventual MRCBF RFP, and whatever the proposals that arrive in response, it is clear now that the process for procuring the Navy’s next carrier fighter will be far from straightforward. None of the aircraft on offer can be operated by the Indian Navy without significant expenses for non-recurring engineering, modification and certification that will have to be amortised over a relatively small 57-aircraft requirement. This will drive the cost of the overall programme up, and certainly make induction of new aircraft in time to fly off IAC-1 in 2023 all but impossible. If the Navy elects to modify the deck-edge lifts on IAC-1, which is certainly within the realm of possibility, it could push the carrier programme back enough to allow it to sync up with likely MRCBF procurement time lines, but further postponements in commissioning and operationalising the already-delayed carrier are not likely to go down well with the MoD and broader national leadership.(Footnote:https://www.stratpost.com/failure-to-launch/)

Inferences from article:

  • None of the western aircraft is designed as per IAC-1 Config.
    • Mig-29 is also one contender of the tender, which suits the IAC-1 inherently.
    • Even if re-engineering is done, it will delay the induction, with no whereabouts of how the modification will affect the performance.
  • Major re-designing of IAC isn’t very much possible as it is in last stages of it’s developement, if done will push the cost way high for the IAC induction and add to the MRCBF tender cost spike. This happens at a time when MoD isn’t in mood to doble the total defense budget.(Defence ministry blocks Navy’s ‘unrealistic’ five-year acquisition plan – Indian Defence Research Wing)

Further my answer will be as follows and divided into parts:

  1. To dissect the word “REJECTED” flashed by media on Tejas NLCA.
  2. To understand what are the difficulties in making naval variant of a fighter as compared to air force variant.
  3. To understand Tejas NLCA’s history and a brief comparison of history of developement of other carrier based aircrafts around the globe.
  4. To know whether it is really rejected or is it going to pave a way for something bigger.

Again answer will be very long, but to the point and will give a clear scenario what has exactly happened and remove the complete fuss that is going around, so stay with me till the end.


PART-I

First of all we will start with the exact words by Navy admiral Mr. Sunil Lanba:

The LCA-Navy in its PRESENT FORM is not up to the mark and does not meet the operational capability required by the IN,” the service’s Chief of Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba said in New Delhi on 2 December.

Now what i am going to explain is how” PRESENT FORM NOT UPTO MARK” turned to “REJECTED” by our beloved paid media.

First we have to understand two things:

  • What the navy wanted from the beginning?
  • What ADA’s N-LCA was intended to do in it’s present form?

Answering the first question:

  • What the navy wanted from the beginning?:
    • Stronger engine to make the carrier based aircraft capable of taking off and landing on short ship deck with full load.
    • Bigger air intakes for the new engine.
    • More load carrying capacity.
    • Navy has intimated the navy that they want MK-2 navy version of N-LCA.
    • Also navy has plans to acquire PV-1 to PV-5 for N-LCA.(PV=prototype vehicle)
    • ADA has intimated to the navy that first two PV will be of Mk-1 category others will be of Mk-2 category.
    • Navy is still 25% share holder in this project, so do you really think it is rejected? Well the media thinks so…
    • Till now N-LCA has two prototype vehicle
  • What ADA’s N-LCA was intended to do in it’s present form?
    • PV-1 and PV-2 are the MK-1 version
    • Their job was to do testing of its capability of taking off from carrier w/o complete load, which was successfully done in Goa SBTF.
    • Other job included the analysis of its landing gear.
    • Lastly it was to do the structural analysis for the wing while dropping bombs.
  • CONCLUSION OF PART 1: Tejas N-LCA PV-1 and PV-2 were never intended to serve the navy and hence admiral used the word “PRESENT FORM” in the right way as the Present form is a structural analysis prototype test bed and not a Service production model(final model).

PART-II

Now let’s get into little bit science of Deck based carriers Vs Air force variant of the same.

Naval fighter have following differences over their airforce variants:

1) Strong undercarriage, after all you get a 3.5+ton plane to slam into what’s basically a deck made of very hard material, so it can’t collapse;

2) Tail Hook to catch the cables to stop them in time to land;

3) Usually longer range, so bigger fuel tanks because they had to fly long distances and there were no interim airfields in the Ocean;

4) Some had foldable wings, to allow to store more of them on board. IIRC, Hellcats/Corsairs with folded wings allowed carriers to store twice as many of non folding wing aircrafts

None of the airforce variants have this.

Naval variants of aircrafts must be rugged and strong as they have:

  • Less space for take off unlike AF variant which has long air strips.
  • Naval variants face tremendous stress on their landing gears when they have to land on the limited space of deck.
  • The arrester hook also has to be attached to the jet which takes up weight and space.

Conclusions of PART-II: First image is of NLCA PV-1, second is IAF tejas. As the saying goes “A picture tells a thousand words”. It must be quite clearnow how important is the landing gear modification and why is it increasing the weight.


PART-III:

Here we will discuss two things in brief:

  1. History of N-LCA.
  2. History of other deck based fighters which were planned once and which are now in service.
  3. HISTORY OF N-LCA:
    • Idea of LCA was first conceived by IAF.
    • IAF wanted it to replace MIG-21s.
    • Navy joined the programme in 2009.
    • So N-LCA was totally new concept.

2.HISTORY OF SOME OTHER AIRCRAFTS IN BRIEF:

  • This will include Rafale, Euro-fighter, F-22.
    • Starting with the legend naval F-22:

  • Project was started in 1988 under the name:Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter (NATF)
    • It was intended to replace the F-14 tomcat.
      • This was project was cancelled in 1993.
      • Reasons(extremely similar to tejas): 1) arrested landings require a tail hook and reinforced fuselage, 2) landing gear are designed for 24 ft/s sink rate, and 3) catapult launches require reinforced nose gear and a strengthened fuselage. These weight increments were difficult to quantify because there are no data for aircraft that were designed for both land-based and sea-based operations with exactly the same mission capability.
    • Naval Euro-fighter:

  • It always remained a proposal.
    • It’s idea was dropped in favour of F-35 naval variant, reason mentioning it will be cheap.

  • Naval Rafale:
    • French were clever with their approach. Hence they made the naval variant first and named it the RAFALE-M.
    • The air force variant being relatively easy to make entered into service 3–4 years after naval rafale was introduced.

CONCLUSION OF PART-III: Even, developed nations like USA and UK have to face severe problems for developing their home grown air force variant air craft into its naval version let alone India we still are developing nation with R&D budget in peanuts compared to all of them, still we are trying our best to make the best out of what is available to us.


PART-IV: No, Tejas is rejected in it’s present form that is PV-1 and PV-2(Mk-1), EX- defense minister has clearly mentioned in Aero-india 2017 that navy is still 36% share holder in the project and will continue to support and has never stated that they have either “DISCONTINUED or REJECTED N-LCA Mk-2 programme in all possible way”, we indians throw our old clothes it becomes a table cleaning cloth then a floor cleaning one. Only problem with the project is that it is running bit late, but looking at history of developed nations it is very clear that the task is not at all easy. Also,N-LCA is the stepping stone for N-AMCA which the navy must have to go indigenous due to clash of ideology of PM Modi’s (Make in INDIA) and POTUS Trump(Make America great again), You know what am i saying, don’t you?

There are several reasons i din’t mention F-35 in the answer:

  1. It is a 100 Bn $ project where as LCA combined is 1 Bn $.
  2. JSF is funded my many countries but N-LCA is our very own project.
  3. At “1/100 of JSF programme” i don’t expect tejas to be a really mesmerizing machine and no one should either(It’s like asking a baby to run against Usain Bolt), but it is rather a very good machine in it’s own league of light category 4/4.5 gen aircrafts.
  4. Navy has shown complete commitment towards the ADA N-AMCA programme to take care of the Fifth generation issue, Thats why i said navy is still in the programme.

THE STRINGS ATTACHED:

  1. COMCASA:

COMCASA becomes necessary in case classified military information is required to be exchanged between US and Indian defence forces. Typically, the systems employed are secure radios, secure video teleconferencing and tactical data links. Classified equipment needs to be protected under US Law through Communication Security devices, commonly referred to as COMSEC. Therefore, prior to release of COMSEC devices to India, the COMCASA agreement becomes necessary. Without COMCASA, only commercial grade communication security equipment would be made available to India; COMCASA, therefore, actually provides for a legal framework for the transfer of COMSEC devices and aids compatibility between armed forces of the two nations.

Now, until this agreement is signed India can’t use Highly secure and encrypted, radio links, Navigation system on this aircrafts. C-130J, P-8I, Chinook and Apache are all such US based equipments that suffer from this.

So even after paying billions and in full we aren’t allowed to put our own secure devices on our Airforce assets. This is something the Main stream media rarely talks about.

2.Denial of sharing tech with India as told by a letter of USIBC(US-India Business Council):

    1. In a letter to MoD, US based firms have told MoD that theydon’t want to share major TOT.
    2. They also told they should not be held responsible for any mishaps and quality issues.

So neither of the foreign fighter deal is going to be as easy as LCA is.

No TOT jhamela, no Un-just agreements, indian industry will gain more through LCA than acting like Profit-making business houses and assembling foreign maal.

Pic credits: google

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