If LCA Navy is ‘not up to the mark yet,’ is the Indian Navy looking at Sea Gripen?
The indigenously built LCA Navy has received a thumbs down from India’s navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, who bluntly said, “the LCA is not up to the mark yet,” on Friday.
Lanba went on to say that they are now in the hunt for an “alternate” aircraft. Though he did not criticise the LCA Navy programme, he noted the under-testing aircraft is still not able to “take off with its full weapon load.”
The new aircraft that India is looking at will be coming from elsewhere, which means it will definitely not come from Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) that is responsible for the development of LCA programmes along with the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). The navy wants to acquire the alternate aircraft for navy within the next five years.
“The MiG-29K will operate from the Vikrant (first Indian built aircraft carrier). But we also need an alternate aircraft now. We are looking for it, as the LCA is not up to the mark yet. In the present form, the LCA cannot take off with its full weapon load,” Admiral Lanba said. However, the navy is still encouraging ADA and HAL to develop the LCA Navy.
In April 2016, two prototypes of LCA Navy had successfully conducted 33 test flights from a so-called Shore Based Test Facility in Goa. The tests saw the prototypes taking off with two R-73 air-to-air missiles and with the aid of ground-based ski-jump.
Previously, CD Balaji, head of ADA, was confident that LCA Navy would pull off tests and have a positive outcome. “By mid-2017, we will have established on the SBTF that the Naval Tejas can be flown off an actual carrier, and we will then graduate to ship-based testing. We currently have two prototypes in testing, and will build a third by then,” Business Standard had quoted him as saying.
The LCA Navy is a light, single-engine multi role aircraft and another aircraft with similarities to the LCA Navy is the Sea Gripen from Sweden’s Saab.
Gripen had earlier participated in the deal for 126 MMRCA aircrafts, but lost to Eurofighter and Rafale. However, Saab officials have been reported to have made several presentations to theIndian defence ministry, air force and navy over Gripen-E and Sea Gripen aircraft offer.
Saab was also reported to have received Request For Information (RFI) from the Indian Navy for the supply of carrier-borne fighter aircraft, as early as 2009.
Saab has already revealed its readiness to comply with the current government’s initiative of “Make in India,” and to open a production line in the country.
The Sea Gripen is the naval variant of its Gripen NG fighter. Gripen would cater to both CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take Off But Arrested Recovery) as well as STOBAR (Short Take Off But Arrested Recovery) operations.
It will be interesting to see what aircraft Indian Navy will finally choose as India will also be looking at the pricing, the technology transfer and the life cycle costs, while picking its next aircraft for carrier operations.
Sea Gripen offers a full multi-role capability in all roles, day and night. It is the perfect work-horse for the carrier environment, with low supportability and high availability offering the marine command maximum levels of fire power over protracted operational periods afloat and ashore, and the ability to surge to very high tempo operations when required.
India has embarked on an ambitious warship building programme that this decade will see the Indian Navy operate a significant blue water navy, with aircraft carriers and full carrier based fighter forces. Saab sees Sea Gripen as the ideal IN fleet fighter, and a perfect fit in terms of timing. Saab proposes to work in partnership with the Indian Navy, Integrated Command, DRDO and ship building authorities to demonstrate fully the major advantages that Sea Gripen can bring to the new carrier fleet, and to the security of the nation, for the next 40 years.
•Current marine fighters are very large, very heavy, very costly – F/A-18E/F, F-35C, Rafale M, Mig 29M, Su 33
•Only Sea Gripen fits on all existing aircraft carriers worldwide, and by definition all future carriers
•Sea Gripen will offer maximum capability from STOBAR and CATOBAR carrriers
•Only Sea Gripen will offer proven maximum cost to capability value
Sea Gripen Capabilities
Sea Gripen will offer an ideal replacement for existing fleets, countries who will return to carrier based operations, and potential emerging aircraft carrier nations. Its footprint will allow it to operate from all existing carriers in service, and fit on every lift in operation worldwide.
SaabAB will establish the Sea Gripen as a new-generation carrier-based fighter option for the future. The Sea Gripen will have all the capabilities of the Gripen E/F, and will be the most technologically advanced fighter aircraft in the world in its category. The aircraft will be highly agile, have supercruise capability, extended reach, netcentric capability, carefree manoeuvering, advanced data link and an extensive electronic warfare suite that can be adapted to meet specific national user requirements. The Sea Gripen will also have superior sensor fusion abilities, the Selex Raven AESA radar, Infra-Red Search and Track, plus a revolutionary avionics architecture including ultra-fast databuses and Ethernet. The platform offers for easy integration of advanced weapon systems and growth potential.
Aircraft carrier capabilities such as low landing speed, high pitch & roll authority, high-precision glide slope control, high-precision landing capability, high sink rate clearance, strengthened airframe etc., are built-in from the beginning in the Gripen E/F platform.
The Sea Gripen is intended for both CATOBAR as well as STOBAR operations. All the sensors, avionics and weapons and the GE 414G of the Gripen NG will be offered in the Sea Gripen. The small logistic footprint, high availability and a smaller, lighter airframe results in significant gains from a maintainability point of view. The Gripen spares inventory is therefore lighter, smaller and adds less to the load of the carrier and it takes fewer personnel to maintain the aircraft.
Sea Gripen is equipped with 10 weapon stations, including arming the aircraft with the RBS air to surface missile system, and the Meteor BVR missile. All standard weapon systems can be integrated and the Mausercanon will be retained. The Sea Gripen on offer will have the same weapons configuration as the Gripen E/F, but will be customized to meet the exact requirements of the customer.
Key support cost parameters such as aircraft reliability, maintainability and testability received equal priority to the operational and technical design goals during the design of Gripen. As a result each Gripen operator will experience few failures, low maintenance downtimes, a very short turnaround time and an exceptionally low life support cost.