Monday, January 31, 2011

Latest picture’s of IAF second C-130J Super Hercules [KC-3802]

Latest picture’s of IAF second C-130J Super Hercules [KC-3802]. The first Lockheed Martin's C-130J Super Hercules [KC-3801] will be commissioned on 5th February in india.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

With own 5-Gen fighter project with Russia, India not keen on US jet

India has no plans as of now to either join the US-led joint strike fighter (JSF) programme or buy the F-35 `Lightning-II' fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) when it finally becomes operational.

"We cannot have two types of FGFA. We have already launched preliminary work for our FGFA after inking the $295 million preliminary design contract (PDC) with Russia last month,'' said a top defence ministry official on Friday.

This comes in the wake of comments made by a top Pentagon official, undersecretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics Ashton Carter, in Washington that the US was open to Indian participation in its JSF project.

Interestingly, the comments came during a function where an aggressive sales pitch was made for India to select either the American F/A-18 `Super Hornet' ( Boeing) or F-16 `Falcon' ( Lockheed Martin) over their European rivals in the ongoing IAF's medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contest.

The other 4.5-generation fighters in the hotly-contested race to bag the $10.4 billion MMRCA project, under which 18 jets will be bought off-the-shelf and another 108 will be manufactured in India under transfer of technology, are Eurofighter Typhoon, Swedish Gripen (Saab), French Rafale (Dassault) and Russian MiG-35 (United Aircraft Corporation).

The IAF force matrix for the coming years revolves around the 270 Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted from Russia for around $12 billion, the 126 MMRCA and 120 indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, apart from upgraded MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s.

In the decades ahead, the advanced stealth FGFA to be developed with Russia will be the mainstay of India's combat fleet. "Our FGFA will be cheaper than the F-35. Moreover, the intellectual property rights of the FGFA will equally and jointly vest on both India and Russia, with full access to the source code and the like,'' said another senior official.

With a potent mix of super-manoeuvrability and supersonic cruising ability, the "swing-role'' FGFA will of course not come cheap. The cost of designing, infrastructure build-up, prototype development and flight testing has been pegged at around $11 billion, with India and Russia chipping in with $5.5 billion each.

Over and above this, each of the 250-300 FGFA India hopes to begin inducting from 2020 onwards will cost around $100 million each. In all, India will spend upwards of $35 billion over the next two decades in its biggest-ever defence project till now.

The Indian FGFA will primarily be based on the single-seater Sukhoi T-50, the prototype of which is already flying in Russia, but will include a twin-seater version and a more powerful engine with greater thrust.

"Its complete design will be frozen by the end of the 18-month PDC. Six to seven of its prototypes should be flying by 2017. After that, there will be 2,500 hours of flight-testing over 25 months before the series production begins in 2019,'' he said.

US says can sell top-notch F-35 stealth fighter to India

The US is open to Indian participation in its Joint Strike Fighter programme that would finally lead to its purchase of fifth generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, a top Pentagon official has said.

"There is nothing on our side, no principle which bars that on our side, Indian participation in the Joint Strike Fighter. Right now, they're focused on these aircraft which are top-of-the-line fourth-gen fighters," Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter said yesterday.

Headed to India in the coming weeks, Carter said the decision to pursue the F-35 is to be taken by India only.

Carter was delivering a keynote address on "US-India Defense Relations" at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on the occasion of the release of a report on India's Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme.

At a cost of about USD 10 billion for 126 aircraft, the MMRCA competition is the largest Indian fighter tender in years.

Eight countries and six companies eagerly await the outcome of the selection process, which has garnered high-profile attention for its sheer size, its international political implications, and its impact on the viability of key aircraft manufacturers.

Carter argued that US-built F-16 and F/A-18 as being the most technologically advanced aircraft in the competition.

"I think that, without saying anything disparaging about the other entrants, both F/A-18 and the F-16 offers include the best technology," he said.

Authored by Ashley Tellis, the report says that in choosing an aircraft, the government of India must employ a speedy decision process that is focused on the right metrics, taking both technical and political considerations into account.

Tellis in his over 140 page report notes that the European aircraft are technically superb, but the US entrants prove to be formidable "best buys".

If Washington wants an American aircraft to win the game, however, it will need to offer generous terms on the transfer of technology, assure India access to fifth-generation US combat aircraft, and provide strong support for India's strategic ambitions¿to counter the perception that the older US designs in the MMRCA race are less combat effective, the report notes.

"Given the technical and political considerations, New Delhi should conclude the MMRCA competition expeditiously, avoid splitting the purchase between competitors, and buy the best aircraft to help India to effectively prepare for possible conflict in Southern Asia," the report said.

"Because of the dramatic transformations in combat aviation technology currently underway, the Indian government should select the least expensive, mature, combat-proven fourth-generation fighter for the IAF as a bridge toward procuring more advanced stealth aircraft in the future," it said.

"In making its decision, India's government must keep the IAF's interests consistently front and center to ensure that its ultimate choice of aircraft is the best one for the service. This will not only help India to strengthen its combat capabilities in the coming years but position it as a rising global power worthy of respect far into the future," the report said.

Embraer To Roll Out Indian AEW And C On Feb. 21

India’s Embraer-built Airborne Early Warning & Control System (AEW&C) is scheduled for rollout Feb. 21 in Brazil.

A senior defense official confirmed to Aviation Week Jan. 27 that the first flight of the modified EMB-145 is expected around May. “The first EMB-145 will land in India in August 2011 for system integration and subsequent induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF),” the official says.

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the AEW&C program in October 2004. The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) gave the task to the Bengaluru-based Center for Airborne Systems (CABS). The initial project was approved at a cost of Rs 1,800 crore ($396 million) to develop two operational systems and one engineering prototype within 78 months. But the IAF could only finalize the operational requirements in 2007. CCS looked into the delay and extended the probable date of completion to March 2014, while approving funds to carry out additional tasks.

“The AEW&C with the systems integrated by CABS will fly in India in early 2012,” the official says. “CABS have already begun the integration on ground-based systems [according to the] exact specifications [of] the EMB-145, including the seating arrangements.”

AEW&C is seen as a force multiplier for IAF’s surveillance activities and is expected to boost India’s network-centric warfare capabilities. “In addition to surveillance and tracking of aircraft and UAVS, the system can also detect emissions and communications from radar,” the official says.

The Indian AEW&C system can operate with a maximum crew of 12. “It can fly non-stop for 10-12 hours with midair-refueling,” the official adds. “The all-up weight is 24 tons. The aircraft is being modified to enable mounting of mission systems and be certified for airworthiness, including conditions, by Brazilian authorities as per the FAR 25 standard.”

F-22 Raptor, 'smartest fighter' likely at Aero India

The world’s most advanced combat aircraft, the F-22 Raptor, is likely to make a rare appearance outside the US during the upcoming Aero India show in Bangalore next month. This will be the first appearance of the stealth fighter, which is also the only operational fifth generation fighter aircraft in the world, in India and its third participation at an international air show.

Final details are being worked out by the US, but sources said that two of the fighters are set to be flown in for the air show that begins on February 9 and will be showcased as a static display. Defence Ministry officials confirmed that the fighter is likely to make its Indian debut at the air show, making the latest edition of the Aero India the grandest ever.

While it was inducted into the US military in 2005, the stealth aircraft has rarely been seen outside its country and has made appearances only at limited air shows, the first being at Farnborough in 2008. According to a release by the US State department, the only other participation has been at an air show in Chile last year. However, the fighter has also carried out flying demonstrations at the Dubai air show. Its participation at the Aero India would take it up by several notches in the international order of air shows.

While the F-22 Raptor’s appearance will be a last minute surprise, it has been speculated that the recent Indian contract to purchase fifth generation fighters from Russia and the first flight of the Chinese fifth generation fighter, J 20, could have had some influence on the decision. As of now, US legislation prevents the sale of the F-22 to any foreign nation, including close allies such as Japan.

The F-22 would be the most anticipated participant at the Aero India, but this year’s air show will see close to 100 aircraft participating, a number that has never been achieved before. In comparison, during the last show in 2009, less than 50 aircraft took part. Other notable participants will be the Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, F/A 18, F 16 and the Saab Gripen.

The biggest participant will be the US that is bringing in several aircraft, including 10 fighters, the C 17 Globemaster III transport aircraft and the WC 130 J Weatherbird. A notable absentee in this year’s show will be the Russian MiG 35 that is unlikely to come even though it is one of the six contenders for the IAF’s MMRCA programme.

''Hercules'' to be inducted in IAF on Feb 5

Boosting its Special Operations capabilities, the Indian Air Force will formally induct its first C-130 J ''Hercules'' transport aircraft on February 5.

The aircraft is likely to arrive in the country by the end of this month and would be formally inducted into the IAF at a ceremony at its home base Hindan air base near here on February 5, IAF officials said here.

The first of the six aircraft procured by India under aUSD 970 million deal was handed over to IAF in mid-December.

The aircraft is expected to enhance IAF''s special missions capability along with transporting men and material.

India had purchased the aircraft under the US government's Foreign Military Sales route that includes an offset clause under which the firm will invest 30 per cent of the deal amount back in Indian defence industry.

The aircraft will be based at Hindan in Ghaziabad just outside the capital, where the infrastructure for its deployment has been completed.

The aircraft would also be pressed into service for transporting special forces from the capital to other placesin the country in case need arises.

The US government had offered a unique C-130J configuration modified for special mission roles and these will be the first uniquely configured aircraft in the IAF fleet for its special operations.

The aircraft will be able to perform precision low-level flying, air drops, and landing in blackout conditions. Special features are included to ensure aircraft survivability in hostile air defence environment.

India is also planning to place orders for six more similar aircraft and likely to send a Letter of Request to the US Government in this regard in near future.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

100,000 flying hours for Eurofighter Typhoon

The operational fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons in service since the second half of 2003 achieved the impressive milestone of 100,000 flying hours in January 2011.

This total was celebrated today during an event held at Eurofighter headquarters in Munich, Germany. At the event were senior representatives from the Eurofighter programme, Eurofighter management agency NETMA alongside senior staff from all six customer nations including those from the export customers Austria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The 100,000 hours were achieved flying the Typhoons in the bitter cold weather of the Baltic Sea, in the temperate climate of the Tyrrhenian Coast, in the torrid heat of the Arabic Peninsula and over the rough South Atlantic Sea. A range of operational scenarios have tested the Typhoon to its limits and is testament to the reliability; operational readiness and the durability of the platform and systems under operational conditions.

Enzo Casolini, CEO of Eurofighter GmbH stated “This achievement for the Eurofighter programme demonstrates the maturity reached by the platform and the reliability of it as a defence system. In addition, this key event shows in clear terms what can be achieved through international cooperation and partnership. With so much achieved to date and so much still to look forward to, I am proud to say I am part of such a successful programme”.

With the first 5,000 flying hours achieved by November 2005, 10,000 hours came in August 2006, 20,000 in May 2007 and by August 2008 the Typhoon had surpassed 50,000 hours. This increase in activity matches the steady delivery of aircraft to the customers. The operational fleets have more than 260 aircraft in service - the largest number among the new generation fighters available in the world today.

These fleets are spread across a wide range of squadrons and deployments; six from the UK (four in Coningsby, one in Leuchars and one in Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands); four in Italy (two in Grosseto and two in Gioia del Colle); three in Germany (Laage, Neuburg and Nörvenich), as well as one each in Spain, Austria and in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - all having contributed to the 100,000 flying hour total.

With Tranche 2 production in full swing, all 148 Tranche 1 aircraft delivered and the retrofit programme bringing them all to their latest block configuration, the Typhoon is establishing its footprint within the partner and export Customer air forces as the backbone of the operations both in terms of air dominance and ground support roles.

This new milestone for the Eurofighter programme provides another strong message about the operational availability of the Typhoon and highlights the benefits of investing in such a capable aircraft. Video footage of each nation participating in the 100,000th hour was shown to guests at the event. The video is available on line at

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Part Of Airbus Tanker's Refueling Boom Falls Off During Exercise

A substantial part of the in-flight refueling boom onboard an Airbus A330 MRTT tanker destined for the Royal Australian Air Force has broken off and fallen into the Atlantic during an exercise.

The major part of the boom broke off part-way through refueling a Portuguese Air Force F-16 at around 5 p.m. Jan. 19, an Airbus Military spokesman said.

Both aircraft returned to their respective bases with minor damage. The tanker was being flown by an Airbus crew at the time of the incident.

A statement from the Australian Department of Defence said no Australian personnel were onboard at the time of the break.

The spokesman said it was the 14th refueling contact of the exercise.

He said it was too early to say whether technical, human or other factors caused the boom to break off.

European military airworthiness authorities and Airbus Military have begun investigating the incident.

Australia has purchased five of the MRTT aircraft, with the first machine expected to be delivered next month. It is not clear yet whether the delivery of the first aircraft will be delayed as a result of the incident.

The boom was designed by EADS and has yet to enter service with any air force. The system is the same one being offered to the U.S. Air Force in the tanker competition underway against rival bidder Boeing.

EADS conducted the first in-flight wet contact with its Air Refueling Boom System in early 2008, again operating with a Portuguese F-16.

The ARBS is 17 meters long at full extension. The fly-by-wire system is controlled remotely by an operator from a console in the cockpit.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Airbus bids for IAF's midair refueller contract

NEW DELHI: Airbus Military, a European consortium, on Thursday said it has bid to supply six mid-air refuellers to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The IAF had re-issued the tender in September 2010. The original tender for the air refueller was first issued a couple of years ago, but was cancelled following the finance ministry's objection to the cost put forth by Airbus Military, whose A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft was selected for awarding the contract.

With Boeing not bidding for the tender, Airbus Military is now pitted against the Russian Ilyushin, which has offered the IL-78 for the contract.

The IAF is already operating six of the IL-78 refuellers in its fleet for over half a decade now and the squadron is based at Agra air force base.

Airbus Military's market development head Didier Vernet told reporters here that the company had submitted its proposals for the IAF tender last week. The deadline for responding to the tender expired Jan 12 this year.

He said the firm would submit its offsets proposals for the contract by April. Under the defence procurement procedures, a global firm winning a contract for defence orders worth over Rs 300 crore will have to plough back 30 percent of the deal in Indian defence industry, aerospace, internal security or training sectors.

The IAF is expected to make a follow-on order of the aircraft it chooses as the present tenders or Request for Proposals provide for such a purchase on the basis of the price agreed under the contract.

The new midair refuellers are required by the IAF to augment its existing IL-78 fleet. The air-to-air refuellers are used by air forces for refuelling its fighters and transport aircraft while in flight to enhance the endurance of these platforms.

The midair refuellers are a major force multiplier for air forces so as to keep their fighter jets in air to respond to security threats for longer periods of time.

This time around, the IAF has asked the global manufacturers of midair refuellers to submit their proposals as per life cycle costs.

Vernet, responding to queries if the life cycle costs calculation in the tender will be beneficial, said compared to IL-78s his company's product would be far more economical to operate and maintain.

The A330 MMTT, he said, could be converted for a transport role too within a matter of an hour or two.

Boeing withdraws from Indian Tanker Competition

New Delhi. Boeing has withdrawn from the midair tanker competiton floated by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in September 2010.

That leaves only the European Airbus A330 MRTT and the Russian IL 78 in the fray for supplying six midair refuelers to the IAF, which may actually buy a few more aircraft on follow-on orders later.

At present, IAF flies six IL 78 tankers, which are doing well but are of old technology and IAF is looking for newer, better options. In fact, the Airbus 330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) had won the competition earlier but as it was regarded as too expensive, re-tendering was ordered.

Boeing has a new generation 767 under development but will not operationalise it until it gets the US Air Force’s order for 179 aircraft. The evaluation for that, against the EADS Airbus A 330 MRTT is still going on, although a decision is expected in the first half of this year.

Boeing Vice President for Defence, Space and Security in India Dr Vivek Lall told India Strategic that Boeing had to withdraw as the last date for complying with the tender bid was January 12.

Dr Lall said: Only upon the outcome of the KC-X competition for replacement of US Air Force refueling takers will be able to fully determine our ability to participate in future international competitions. Boeing is committed to assist our international customers meet their military requirements but we are not in a position now to discuss any detail expressed by specific customers.”

However, he said, if the USAF accepted the Boeing 767 tanker and the IAF extended the date for the competition, “Boeing would be happy to take part.”

That does not seem likely though as the Indian Air Force is under a planned phase of transformation and further delay could upset the overall schedule. Midair tankers are required to extend the range of both combat and transport aircraft.

Notably, the Indian tankers are fitted with Israeli probes, and the tender, or the Request for Proposales (RfP), was also issued to the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) just in case it could buy some aircraft and integrate its systems on board.

The Israeli response is not known.

Aero India 2011: India to showcase attack copter

Bangalore: India’s first indigenous attack helicopter, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) developed by HAL and due for induction into the Indian Air Force by 2012-13 , will make its first flight during Aero India from February 9 to 13. Its first test flight was in March last year.

The second and third flights were in April and May 2010 and as of now, over 20 test flights have checked various parameters. These have paved the way for testing with weapons.

While the first prototype could fly at the air show, the second prototype, which will be weaponized, is expected to be unveiled too. Two more prototypes are under construction. HAL commenced work on the LCH in 2006.

The copter is an attack variant of the HAL Dhruv, which has been inducted into the armed forces. The copter was designed using a successful and proven helicopter as the base platform. HAL has tentative orders to deliver 65 LCHs to the IAF and over 100 to the Army.

HAL will also showcase the mockup of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) which is being developed indigenously and the Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) being done in collaboration with Russia .

Two Chetak helicopters are expected to be handed over to a Third World country. While export orders are nothing to write home about, there have been occasional purchases by other countries. Chile signed a contract with HAL for about seven Dhruv ALHs.

US now sets eye on $1.4bn contract for attack copter deal

NEW DELHI: Having already bagged some mega defence deals, the US now seems quite smug about cornering an even greater share of the lucrative Indian arms market despite the strong presence here of traditional military suppliers like Russia and Israel.

The growing American confidence can be gauged from the fact that though the field trial evaluation process for acquiring 22 heavy-duty attack helicopters for IAF is still in progress, the US Congress has already been notified by the Obama administration about the impending $1.4 billion contract.

Interestingly, the final battle for the attack helicopters or gunships is now down to just the two erstwhile Cold War rivals, US and Russia, with Boeing's AH-64D Apache Longbow pitted against the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant's Mi-28 Havoc.

"We are still evaluating the two helicopters (Apache and Havoc) in contention...the final selection will take some time,'' said a senior IAF officer.

But that has not stopped the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) from notifying its Congress, even though it acknowledges India ''is yet to select the Boeing-US Army proposal... This notification is being made in advance so that, in the event that the proposal is selected, the US may move as quickly as possible to implement the sale."

The notification even lists out what India ''will request'' as part of the ''complete package'' worth around $1.4 billion. Apart from the 22 Apaches, it includes 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire-II missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles, 12 AN/APG-78 fire-control radars and the like.

Holding the "proposed sale" will strengthen the Indo-US strategic relationship, the notification says the Apaches "will improve India's capability to strengthen its homeland defence and deter regional threats".

Rafael Products on Showcase at Aero India 2011

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems provides its clients with a full range of solutions for locating, detecting, identifying and neutralizing threats as well as pin-point solutions. They have confirmed following exhibits for Aero India 2011.

Among the Advanced defense solutions Rafael will display:

* IRON DOME: All weather mobile defense solution for countering short range rockets and
artillery shells. It can address threats at ranges up to 70 km.
* IMILIE: Cost effective multi-source, multi-task imagery intelligence system. It receives, exploits
and processes multiple imagery and data. It is also capable of disseminating intelligence to authorized end users and clients.
* SPYDER SR/MR: SPYDER family of air defense systems is capable of engaging and destroying a wide variety of threats faced on a modern battlefield. Threats addressed include PGMs, stand-
off weapons, cruise missiles, UAVs, helicopters and aircrafts.
* STUNNER: Interceptor for David’s Sling system, Stunner offers affordable solution to the asymmetric threat of short-range ballistic missiles, large caliber rockets and cruise missiles.
* PYTHON 5: Full- Sphere 5th generation air-to-air missile, it offers excellent resistance to countermeasures.
* DERBY: Already in service with Indian Navy Sea Harrier fleet, Derby offers all weather performance.
* SPICE 1000/2000: SPICE family of guidance kits can be used to convert conventional bombs into stand-off autonomous weapon system with high accuracy.
* SPIKE FAMILY: Tactical Precision Missile family spanning across various platforms like helicopters, LCV and naval platforms.
* GLOBAL LINK: Real Time Data Processing and Distribution System.
* RAVNET300: Communication Digital Network Solution for Existing Radios.
* LITE SHIELD – Electronic Attack Pod for Close Protection and Escort Jamming.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

US to lobby for $11-bn fighter aircraft deal

Ahead of Aero-India 2011 in Bangalore next month, a high-technology business development trade mission from the US, led by US commerce secretary Gary Locke, is expected to push for US fighter aircraft manufacturers for the $11-bn (medium multi-role combat aircraft) MMRCA deal.

Lockeed Martin, who would lead the trade mission to India from Feburary 6-11, said the US government views high-technology defence sales as a cornerstone of the US-India strategic partnership.

Six manufacturers, including Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60, Saab Gripen, and RSK MiG-35, are in race for the $11-billion deal for 126 fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The process for the 126 MMRCA, initiated in August 2007, has entered its final phase after IAF carried out the flight and weapons evaluation of the six competing aircraft for what has been described as the ‘mother of all deals’.

According to sources in IAF, “Since the technical evaluations are down, the MoD is likely to down select the contenders after the air show, possibly by April. This would decide who goes in for contract negotiations. “

Another source, however, indicates that while there is no fixed number of aircraft for the shortlist, the Offsets liability have yet to be decided and that all six aircraft types could, in theory at least, advance to the contract stage.

It maybe recalled that earlier India was seeking offsets of 30% for defence programmes, but the requirement has been raised to 50% for the MMRCA with plans to create more jobs and transfer of technology.

Over 70 companies applied to participate in the US mission in order to promote US exports of high technology products and services in key economic sectors: civil-nuclear trade, defence and security, civil aviation, and information and communications technology.

Advanced technologies, including aerospace, specialised materials, information and communications technologies, electronics and flexible manufacturing systems, underpinned this growth, the department of commerce said.

Overall, US exports to India were $16.4 billion in 2009, making India the 17th largest export market. Exports to India through October 2010 reached approximately $16.1 billion.

Call to speed up Indo-Russian fighter project

Russia and India should speed up work on their joint fifth-generation fighter plane to meet the challenge from the Chinese rival unveiled earlier this week, said a leading military expert.

“The Chinese prototype of a fifth-generation aircraft, J-20, appears to be a long-range strike aircraft and as such it will pose a potential threat to India,” said analyst Konstantin Makienko of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST).

China's stealth fighter made its first 15-minute flight on Tuesday over an airfield in the south-western city of Chengdu. Mr. Makienko called the test flight an “unquestionable success” for the Chinese defence industry.

“China has emerged as the third nation developing the fifth-generation fighter plane after the U.S. and Russia,” he told The Hindu.

The Russian expert said India and Russia should intensify efforts to build their advanced fighter plane if they are not to lose the race to China.

“The J-20 fighter will be a direct rival of the Russian-Indian fifth-generation aircraft. The Chinese plane will be ready by 2020, so time will be a crucial factor.”

The Russian prototype, T-50, made its first flight a year ago. India joined the project only last month when the two sides signed a contract for the preliminary design of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft to be called Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF).

India will contribute about 30 per cent of the plane's total design by providing composite material components, some avionics, electronic warfare systems and cockpit displays. Indian designers will also be responsible for re-modelling Russia's single-seat fighter into a two-seater version for the IAF.

The PMF planes are expected to start rolling out around 2017, but delays cannot be ruled out, judging by past experience.

The fifth-generation fighter will be the first Indo-Russian aviation project that will be marketed in third countries.

The Russian Center for Analysis of International Weapons Trade estimates the global market for the PMF at over 400 planes.

“In order to retain its competitive edge the Russian-Indian fifth-generation fighter should enter global markets before the Chinese plane and cap its price at $80-100 million per aircraft,” the Russian expert said.

To rival China's new stealth jet

India to contribute 30% of design.

Eurofighter ahead in IAF deal

Likely to pip Russian, US, French jets for $10-billion ‘deal of the decade’

The buzz has started about which new ‘fighter bird’ will rule the Indian skies as well as those of enemy. The Eurofighter aircraft, it seems, has emerged the winner after a long ‘dogfight’ among six foreign 4.5th generation jet planes to clinch over $10-billion Indian Air Force deal for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). The second runner-up is said to be the French fighter Rafale.

Despite the aggressive business-oriented visit of US President Barack Obama recently, two major competing American military aircraft makers, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have lost their pitch.

Growing Indo-US strategic relations have not helped the American diplomatic and arms lobbies to get either of the two planes touch the winning mark. India had shortlisted six aircraft: American Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN ‘Super Viper’, US Boeing’s ‘Super Hornet’ F/A-18IN, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company NV (EADS)’ Eurofighter Typhoon - EADS is a consortium of British, German, Spanish and Italy firms - French D'assault's Rafale, Swedish
Saab’s Gripen, and Russian MiG-35. The MMRCAs induction is likely to start by 2015.

When the file related to the final evaluation of rival aircraft was shown to Defence Minister AK Antony, highly reliable sources told The Tribune that he said that if this was the case, let it be. The Prime Minister’s Office has been made aware about this. Now, a ‘political decision’ is awaited on this mega deal.

Interestingly, on the New Year eve, an important file relating to the deal was found on the roadside in the Khel Gaon area. The file was supposed to be in the custody of an IAS officer of the rank of director in the defence production wing of the Ministry of Defence. An inquiry has been ordered.

The IAF intends to purchase the MMRCA combat jets to replace its aging Russian-made MiG-21 fleet in phases and help in curbing the recent trend of the depleting squadron strength.

India had floated tenders for this deal in August 2007. The exhaustive technical evaluation of the six global manufacturers’ bids was completed last year. Starting from Bangalore, the trials took the competing fighters and their weapons to the hot desert region of Jaisalmer as well as high-altitude Leh.

Incidentally, the IAF ‘top guns’ - after trials at home and abroad - were said to be in favour of Swedish Saab’s Gripen fighters. Boeing’s ‘Super Hornet’ also reportedly gave a tough fight to be among the top four. The Eurofighter is said to be the costliest jet among the competitors.

Lockheed Martin’s F-16 lost mainly as the Air Force pilots’ community raised a critical question: why should India go for the same fighter aircraft that is with our main regional adversary - Pakistan?

The arrival of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighter plane for trials had made many in the IAF apprehensive, and they feared that its ‘selection’ - because of over-pitched American lobbying - might become a ‘combat disadvantage’ for India. Pakistan has been operating F-16 aircraft since the mid-eighties and is currently flying the F-16 Block 50.

The Russian MiG-35 was ‘not touched’ by the evaluators as New Delhi and Moscow were busy signing a deal for a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

India’s MMRCA trials help Russian aerial refueling tanker bid

Flight trials of the six contenders for India’s Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender have had an unusual side effect on the race to sell India aerial refueling aircraft. Asked to prove aerial refueling capability, the contenders, F-16, Gripen, Rafale, F/A 18, MiG-35 and Eurofighter have had no option but use the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s existing tanker, the Il-86 mid-air refueler to prove that their aircraft is capable of meeting IAF’s requirements as regarding aerial refuelling.

The Il-86 is a contender in India’s re-floated bid to buy fresh aerial refueling tankers. Fresh bids are due later this month and the besides the Il-86, the other likely contenders are the Airbus A-330 MRTT and the Boeing KC-X. The success of the MMRCA aerial refueling tests means that the IL-76 tanker will have a stronger case due to the fact that its capability has been proven on all the MMRCA bidders, one of which will be eventually selected.

In fact, the MMRCA contenders had to make major modifications to their aerial refueling systems to match the IL-76’s fuel pipe mating and locking systems to prove that the their aircraft can be refueled in mid-air.

Informed sources told that the Russian bid had “emerged stronger” after the MMRCA aerial refueling tests. The IL-86 had earlier been disqualified in favor of the Airbus A-330 MRTT but the Airbus bid was turned down following objections from the Indian finance ministry which found the aircraft “too expensive”. It is not known was the quoted price was.

Indian media quoting unnamed Airbus officials has reported that Airbus would be resubmitting its bid for the tanker contest. Boeing however has reportedly expressed that its bid would depend upon whether it wins the U.S. aerial tanker bid in which it is engaged in a bitter battle with the U.S. subsidiary of EADS which is fielding the A-330 MRTT.

Airbus’ tanker has been ordered by the U.A.E, Saudi Arabia, Portugal and Australian air forces while the Boeing KC-X was unveiled only in mid-2010 and the U.S. tanker contest is its first major bid.

The Il-86 has been an old workhorse for Russia, India and China.

At Aero India 2009, the Il-78 had made a demonstration refueling two aircraft simultaneously. It is quite likely that it may repeat this feat with the LCA Tejus at Aero India 2011.

India to order 42 more HAL-produced Su-30MKIs

Hindustan Aeronautics expects the Indian air force to order an additional 42 locally produced Sukhoi Su-30MKIs.

The possible order would come on top of the 180 Su-30MKIs HAL is already producing for the air force, says company chairman Ashok Nayak.

About 105 aircraft from the 180-strong order have been delivered so far, Nayak says. In addition, in mid-2010, India ordered 40 Su-30MKIs as flyaways from Russia's Sukhoi.

Although the in-service aircraft receives less publicity than the air force's medium multi-role combat aircraft competition or indigenously produced Tejas light combat aircraft, the Su-30MKI is the service's backbone and has represented India in several international exercises.

HAL rolled out its first completed Su-30MKI in November 2004.

Israel bars AESA radar export to India

The Israeli defence ministry has blocked the potential export sale of Israel Aerospace Industries' EL/M-2052 active electronically scanned array radar to a number of countries, with its action having an immediate impact on the Indian market.

The restrictions were imposed following pressure from the US administration, which has outlined its concerns to Israel several times in the past two years.

Washington's position is driven by an assumption that exporting IAI's advanced radar would undermine the sale of US-made systems on the international stage, sources say.

At one stage, Saab had considered offering the EL/M-2052 as part of its Gripen NG proposal for the Indian air force's medium multi-role combat aircraft requirement, but instead opted for Selex Galileo's ES05 Raven AESA.

IAI had also viewed the Indian Aeronautical Development Agency's Tejas light combat aircraft as a potential candidate for the AESA radar. The modular design weighs 130-180kg (286-397lb) and consumes 4-10kVA, depending on the design configuration, and has built-in growth potential, the company says.

Developed by IAI's Elta Systems subsidiary, the EL/M-2052 uses an array of solid-state transmit/receive modules designed to dynamically shape the radiation pattern using an ultra-low side-lobe antenna. It can perform simultaneous multi-mode operations, detecting airborne threats and supporting navigation and mapping, by producing high-resolution synthetic aperture radar imagery.

The sensor can detect and track up to 64 airborne targets from long range, and enable a pilot to engage several simultaneously using air-to-air missiles, IAI says. The sensor can also provide long-range target detection, classification and tracking in the anti-ship role.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II: Making Progress

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER: The Marine Corps performed a significant maneuver today with the Corps’ short take-off and vertical landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the STOVL F-35B Lightning II.

The BF-2, a test version of the fighter jet, accomplished its first vertical landing and conversion back to normal flight. This is an important step for the fighter that the Corps has scheduled to replace three other types of combat aircraft in its aging fleet: the EA-6B Prowler, AV-8B Harrier and F-18 Hornet.

The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos has communicated that the Corps will track the progress of the new aircraft to ensure engineering and test points are accomplished over the next two years.

Despite some recent concerns over performance, cost and schedule, the Marine Corps contends that it is dedicated to the success of this program – and being able to operate and land virtually anywhere in the world while supporting the continuous tactical air missions the Corps demands.

The STOVL JSF will carry more ordnance with greater range than the F/A-18 Hornet, operate from austere expeditionary environments like the AV-8B Harrier, and ultimately possess electronic warfare technology similar to the EA-6B Prowler.

The Marine Corps anticipates reaching initial operational capability for the JSF F-35B in 2012-2013. This first proven capability step will include the a training squadron of 15 aircraft in VMFAT-501 at Eglin AFB, an operational test and evaluation detachment of 4 aircraft at Edwards AFB, and VMFA-332, the Corps’ first operational squadron of 10 aircraft, at MCAS Yuma.

The VMFA-332 aircraft will be equipped, manned and trained to execute Marine missions and deploy ashore or afloat from U.S. Navy amphibious assault (L-Class) ships.

Russia lifts ban on Tu-95 bomber flights

The Russian Air Force has lifted a ban on the flights of Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers imposed after an An-22 Cock transport plane was destroyed in a crash last December.

The plane crashed in the Tula Region on December 28, killing all 12 crew members.

The Air Force decided to ground all Tu-95s and An-22s because both aircraft types share the Kuznetsov NK-12 turboprop, whose failure was suspected as the main cause of the crash.

The An-22 remains the largest turboprop-powered aircraft in the world. Around 45 remain in service with the Russian Air Force and most are over 40 years old.

Hu confirms J-20 stealth jet test

President Hu Jintao reportedly confirmed that China's first stealth fighter jet, the J-20, underwent its first test flight Tuesday, making the first official acknowledgement of the plane's existence since the surfacing of online photos in December.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, currently in Beijing, was told that the test was not timed to coincide with his trip. His visit has seen Chinese military figures and officials frequently repeat that China's military development remains decades behind that of Western countries.

"I asked Hu about it directly, and he said that the test had absolutely nothing to do with my visit and had been a pre-planned test. And that's where we left it," Gates was quoted by Reuters as saying Tuesday.

Responding to a question on the fighter jet, Guan Youfei, deputy director of Foreign Affairs Office of the Defense Ministry, said Tuesday that China's military hardware development was not aimed at any other country.

During his meeting with Gates, Hu stated that China and the US share extensive common interests and enjoy broad prospects for cooperation, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The Pentagon chief hailed his Beijing visit as a "positive" step forward but called for patience, saying military ties with China could not be improved overnight, AFP reported.

"I think this is an arena where we have to play the long game," Gates added.

Gates will visit the command base of the Second Artillery Force of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) today before flying on to Seoul.

An aviation enthusiast surnamed Zhang, who live-broadcast on the test taking place near the Chengdu Aircraft Design Institute, told the Global Times that the J-20 had been escorted by a J-10S trainer, had taken off at 12:50 pm and had landed at 1:10 pm after making a few passes over the airfield.

Citing pictures posted by bloggers, Xinhua reported that people cheered after the prototype landed safely, showing pictures of a large group of people standing around the plane.

Yang Yao, one of China's top test pilots, told the Global Times that after the maiden flight, the J-20 will undergo a battery of tests prior to being approved for use in the field, a process that usually lasts at least three years.

"After that, at least another year is needed before full production of the plane. Then the Chinese pilots will need to learn how to maneuver this new-generation fighter jet, which will take a certain amount of time," he said.

Ni Feng, a researcher of US Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that "the timing of the J-20's maiden flight is a coincidence, but it showed that China is more confident and honest in unveiling its military progress. This is a step forward for promoting mutual trust with other major players in the global community."

Gary Li, a China expert with the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, called the exposure a sign of "unofficial transparency."

"The PLA would not have decided to unveil such a leap in aeronautical development in such a manner if they were not confident about it," Li said.

Despite the absence of official technical details of the J-20, some Western analysts are comparing it to the US Air Force's F-22 Raptor stealth jet, the world's only operational fifth-generation stealth fighter.

Due to defense cuts, the US has ceased the production of the F-22 in favor of the F-35, a cheaper fifth-generation fighter jet that has fewer capabilities.

Retired US Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney wrote in a Fox News story last week that the F-35 will be no match for the J-20, repeating his call for inserting funding for F-22s into the Pentagon's defense budget for 2011.

Carlo Kopp and Peter Goon, partners in the Air Power Australia think-tank, told, a US-based technology website, that the US Navy's F/A-18 Super Hornets and the F-35 fighter jets are "aerodynamically and kinematically quite inferior" to the J-20.

They claimed that due to the J-20's larger size, the Chinese plane would be optimally designed for fast, high-altitude interception using long-range missiles, as opposed to close-range dog fighting.

Li Daguang, a military expert at the PLA National Defense University, disagreed with those predicting the potential outcome of battles between the J-20 and F-22.

"It is too early to say whether the J-20 can challenge the F-22, since we don't have any technical details for the Chinese plane. I also have doubts over the plane's stealth capability," he said.

"The J-20 is definitely stronger than previous Chinese jets, but one plane's development doesn't necessarily bring about great progress in the country's overall air strength," he added.

The US-based Aviation Weekly reported that, based on the pictures, the J-20 jet has features that make it less compatible with stealth activities.

"The J-20 may not match the all-aspect stealth of the F-22," it said.

Some analysts said the J-20, with a larger size and a higher ground clearance than the F-22, might be a mixture of a stealth jet and a bomber.