Which fighter should India buy for INS Vikrant?
The Indian Navy has launched a global search for maritime fighter jets it plans to operate from future aircraft carriers and is awaiting response from top military contractors on what they have to offer.
The navy wants 57 multi-role carrier-borne fighters (MRCBF) and the potential order could get bigger with an option clause to buy more jets. The hunt for new deck-based fighters comes at a time when the navy is left with just a solitary aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, following the decommissioning of Viraat on Monday.
The navy issued a request for information for the multi-billion dollar MRCBF project in January, giving aircraft manufacturers a four-month deadline to respond.
French, Swedish, Russian and American firms are likely to compete for the project to equip India’s future carriers: Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)-I or Vikrant being built at Kochi and IAC-2, which is in a conceptual stage.
The IN has concluded that the Tejas is unsuitable for either vessel because, despite the structural improvements made to the test airframe in support of carrier operations, the final product did not meet the standard of acceptability at a time when Indian naval aviation is preparing to meet formidable adversaries, such as China, in the Indian Ocean.
Being able to successfully defend against — and overcome — Chinese aircraft carriers with their deployed air wings consisting of Su-33/J-15s, and possibly indigenous J-20s and J-31s in the future, should constitute the real metric for judging the acceptability of a given strike-fighter for the IN’s prospective carriers.
Mig 29 k is currently used in the INS Vikramadithya and it is a main competeters for the aircraft deal. Even though the navy is not full satisfied in its performance there is a high chance for it due to its low cost.
The MiG-29K is fitted with more powerful RD-33MK engines, replacing the RD-33K turbofan engines used in the early prototypes.MiG-29K is armed with R-73E air-to-air missiles, Kh-31A and Kh-35E anti-ship missiles and Kh-31P anti-radar missiles. Other armaments include guided aerial bombs, rockets and aerial bombs.
MiG-29K being a light fighter, can easily takeoff with full payload and fuel from an aircraft carrier. Also more MiG-29K can stored in the carrier’s hangar due to its small size.
Mig-29K has been always plagued with maintenance issues (which has been sorted out recently) which have to lead the Indian Navy’s primary Fighter Aircraft to suffer from low serviceability record. 26 of the Mig-29K operates onboard the INS Vikramaditya while rest are put for Off-Shore and Air Defence Duties. While Mig-29K can hold its own against any 4.5 or 4++ Generation Aircraft, Indian Navy now wants an ultra-modern Aircraft which exceeds Mig-29K in specifications and performance. Mig-29K will serve with Indian Navy for long even after newer aircraft are inducted, supplementing them in the role as the new Indian Navy Aircraft, which would be either Rafale-M or F/A-18 Block III, spread its wings from the upcoming Indian Aircraft Carriers like INS Vikrant and INS Vishal with the latter possibly fielding up Fifth Generation Aircraft (possibly Naval AMCA) in the future.
As a participant in the MMRCA 2 deal the dassault is trying to sell its naval version of this war proven machine to the indian navy. Sources from dassault during aero india confirmed it. Even though price of this aircraft is high there is stil a high chance of selection due to its reliability and pure power.
Rafale features 13 Hardpoints where for Aerial Combat Role, the Ultra-Long Range Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile along with MICA Air-to-Air Missile can be mounted. Meteor is acknowledged to be a world beater featuring a No-Escape Zone of more than 100 km and is equipped with Data Link Communication along with an active radar target seeker and an AD4A (Active Anti-Air Seeker) family of seekers with its incredibly long range due to its Ramjet Propulsion System.
3.F/A 18 super hornet block 3:
After a series of simulations and tests the boeing announced that its aircraft can work perfectly in indian carriers. As one of the most powerful naval aircraft and back bone of us carriers boeing belives that they have a very high chance for getting the deal.
F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet features an excellent complement of Weapons Package which includes AIM-120D Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile whose range extends upto 160 kilometres featuring a Two-Way Datalink and a High Off-Boresight Capability. Along with, the F/A-18 carries AIM-9 Sidewinder Within-Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile.
The cornerstone of F/A-18 is its Air to Ground Attack Munitions which includes Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. JASSM is an Air-launched Stealth Cruise Missile which can be used to strike Ground and Naval Targets upto 370 km. However, the Achille’s Heal for F/A-18 is its relatively lesser hardpoints where these weapons can be mounted which is superior to the existing Mig-29K but inferior to Rafale.
4.HAL Tejas MK2:
The LCA (Navy) Mk2 is being designed primarily to provide air defence to the fleet onboard Carrier and meeting all the mission objectives set out by the Indian Navy. Significantly improved aircraft performance largely better than AF-Mk1 and integration of a full suite of weapons are capabilities inherent in the design.
The main contributors to improvement in LCA(Navy) Mk2 have been identified as higher thrust engine, an increased wing area, an area ruled and streamlined configuration, lighter landing gear and structure, and improved systems layout towards better safety and maintainability.
But other important changes will optimise the fighter for carrier operations. Weight will be shaved off the undercarriage, which will be accommodated inside a lengthened wing, freeing up space in the centre fuselage for an additional 700 litres of fuel. This will give the fighter an extra 20-25 minutes of flight endurance. In addition, the tail hook will be engineered afresh.
Even though the navy rejected the Mk1 varient there is still hope for the tejas mk2. It is said that mk2 will be less heavy and will consist of a larger body and a new engine. But the problem is it is still in development stage. But if they managed to develop the aircraft and show its capabilities to the navy before 2021 there is a high chance for tejas to enter service in navy.