The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) controlled by the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) will develop a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) for the Indian Navy (IN) instead of persisting with the development of a Mk2 variant of the LCA-Navy (NLCA) design. The DRDO offered to develop a new twin-engine deck-based fighter aircraft for the Navy based on the experience of the Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and it should be ready by 2026, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said on 03 December 2019. He also noted that the Navy expected to have the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-1) Vikrant operational by 2022. “The Qualitative Requirements [QR] are being made. They said they should be able to push it out by 2026. If it meets our time and QR requirements, we will definitely take it [fighter aircraft],” he said at the customary annual press conference ahead of the Navy Day.

The advantages of a twin-engine design are many, first, it will have increased speed and maneuverability, the jet will have enhanced range because it can carry more fuel and with refueling, it can be extended to well over 2000 km. It can carry larger combat loads. It is also less susceptible to mechanical failures or combat damage. It can carry larger combat loads. At high altitudes, using two engines will have tremendous supplemental benefits, as losing a single engine jet over water or land is a much more life-threatening experience. System redundancy is a tertiary benefit of multi-engine aircraft, since losing engine results in only a 50% loss in total available thrust, plus redundant generators and hydraulic pumps will allow the aircraft to fly. In addition, having two engines will reduce training losses.

TEDBF/ORCA will borrow most of the cockpit technologies like Next Generation Wide Area Display (WAD) and side-stick controls from the MWF program and will also have the same high powered Digital flight control computer (DFCC) along with the same set of UTTAM AESA Fire Control Radar matted to bolt-on Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system for optically hunting down enemy aircraft, especially stealthy ones from the MWF program.

The new TEDBF fighter will be powered by two GE F-414 engines and the aircraft will have an all-up weight (AUW) of 24 tonnes. The aircraft will reportedly have a payload capacity of 9 tonnes and a maximum speed of approximately Mach 1.6. The aircraft would be comparable in size with the MiG-29K fighter jet currently operated by the Indian Navy from INS Vikramaditya.

Naval AMCA

LCA-Navy Mk1 seems to be a learning experience that both ADA and Navy relied on to avoid repeating the same mistakes. It is also recorded fact that airforce to navy conversion is much harder than the vice versa. Su-33 and Mig-29K which were developed from their Air force version still have a long list of issues that simply can’t be fixed and even F-35C stealth fighter developed by the united states for its Navy has many technical issues that limit its performance against F-35A which is its air force version.

Naval-AMCA will also need to make space for structural reinforcements and have the ability to carry additional fuel and not to forget reinforced landing gears, tail hooks, and larger wings to for increased low-speed control for carrier landings. Naval-AMCA will also weigh more due to the strengthening of the air frame which might result in additional thrust requirements required by the Naval-AMCA to make carrier takeoffs with reasonable weapons load and fuel.

Proposal of ADA to first develop a 4.5th generation Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) before it starts work on the 5th generation design of a new Navy variant seems to suggest that a more approachable development method has been planned out. ADA will develop TEDBF so that it can develop a clean sheet 5th generation carrier-based fighter jet for the Navy at the later stage. experience and technical know how developed in the development of TEDBF will also further come handy in the development of the TEDBF which will borrow from the LCA-Mk1/MWF program and later its successor from the AMCA program.

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