Monday, June 15, 2009

All set for flight evaluation of multirole combat aircraft

All set for flight evaluation of multirole combat aircraft.

15 June 2009, THE HINDU

Ravi Sharma

Defence Ministry sends letters to six aviation firms
It’s for IAF to speedily complete evaluation and indicate its choice

Aircraft to be tested in hot weather and at high altitude

BANGALORE: The Indian Air Force’s bid to acquire 126 medium multirole combat aircraft has got a much-needed push.

The Defence Ministry has issued “the letters of invitation for flight evaluation trials” to six companies that are vying for the $10-$12-billion contract.

They are the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, which pitches in with Eurofighter Typhoon, America’s Lockheed Martin (F-16 Falcon) and Boeing Integrated Defence System (F/A-18F Super Hornet), Russia’s Mikoyan (MiG-35), Sweden’s Gripen (JAS-39) and France’s Dassault (Rafale).

The ball is now in the IAF’s court “to speedily complete the flight evaluation and indicate its choice,” say Ministry officials.

Between July and March next, the IAF will have to undertake the trials, initially in India to test the performance of the aircraft under local conditions and then in the countries of their origin. Armament trials will be conducted in the country of origin as bringing weapons to India could be problematic.

For the evaluation trials, the IAF is likely to form two teams composed of test pilots, flight test engineers and maintenance crew, drawn primarily from the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment and, to a lesser extent, from fighter squadrons. The teams are also likely to include officials of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (to look into technology transfer and industrial partnership) and the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification.

Besides enabling the IAF test pilots to try out the aircraft, the trials will allow flight and ground test crew to know about the maintenance and overhaul facilities required.

Once the IAF makes its evaluation, some time in 2010, commercial negotiations could begin. The terms indicate that the first aircraft will have to be delayed 48 months after a contract is signed.

Time-consuming, expensive

The time-consuming and expensive process — it could cost each competitor $5 million — will test each aircraft whether it can measure up to the performance indicators set forth in flight manuals in Bangalore, Jaisalmer and Leh (under normal conditions, in hot weather and at a high altitude).

Each competitor is sending two aircraft. Informed sources have indicated that Rafale will be one of the first to be evaluated. It will fly into Bangalore in the first week of September.

Officials of the companies told The Hindu that they had initiated a survey of the locations, where their aircraft would be tested.

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