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SOURCE: IDRW NEWS NETWORK / IMAGE COURTESY KUNTAL BISWAS

Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh while, addressing a press conference ahead of Navy Day has reiterated stand-to-back indigenously developed Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) jet program under development by The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) not only to replace the current fleet of 41 odd Russian Mig-29K fighter jets for the operations from INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant but also to operate from third aircraft carrier IAC-II also.

Indian Navy’s forecast requirement for 57 multirole carrier-based fighters (MCRBF) from a foreign OEM, where Carrier-Based combat jets like F-18 E/F by Boeing and Rafale-M from Dassault Aviation were in the race are more or less are temporarily suspended till Navy can gauge the performance of the TEDBF when it is ready for the trials and testing from 2026 onwards.

idrw.org has been informed how Navy plans to execute this program to stay on course for possibly the shortest carrier-based fighter jet development in the history but also that the Navy has committed to procure 100 TEDBF from ADA, not only to replace 45 Mig-29K brought from Russians in past deals but also include 57 MCRBF which it had planned to procure from foreign OEM if TEDBF can meet Requirements set by the Navy.

Navy has kept a very short period for the development of the TEDBF jet for the ADA and HAL to execute that has never been done before. 24.5 tons indigenous carrier-based fighter jet will be developed in the country for the first time while in the parallel, the country will also be engaged in the development of the 5.5th Generation 24.5 tons AMCA fighter jet. ADA has sought Rs.13,000 crores for Research and Development of the first three TEDBF jets to be developed by 2026 followed by one each in 2027 and 2028.

TEDBF jets will be cleared for production in 2030, that’s within just four years of its first flight for which the Navy has agreed to cut corners in terms of the strict regime that is usually followed by the Air force in testing and trials as seen in LCA-Tejas Mk1 program. idrw.org has been told that pre-production TEDBF jets will carry most of the equipment meant for Tejas Mk2 and AMCA program but will enter production before it achieves its initial operational certification.

Naval Test team will be closely working with the ADA Design Team instead of relying on the HAL Test team to make sure the program stays on course and the experience gained in testing and trials of the LCA-Navy Mk1 is better utilized to reduce testing and trial regime. idrw.org has been informed that the focus in Phase-I will to be test flight characters of the aircraft from normal land-based operations and then quickly move to shore-based carrier testing facility in Goa in preparation for the second phase trials.

The second TEDBF jet will come with the required equipment to commence carrier-based trials and testing thereafter and the third one will be used exclusively for weapons trials. since most of the equipment going into TEDBF might have already tested onboard Tejas Mk2 from 2023 onwards, repetition will be avoided and to save time, Naval team will also work closely with the Tejas Mk2 Team.

Navy plans to gradually realise more features and upgraded capabilities when the jet enters production to exploit its true potential. Navy expects at least 40 jets to be delivered by 2034-35 period in initial operational capabilities and rest with additional capabilities in batches by 2040 to be equipped on three aircraft carriers that it plans to operate by 2040. To keep the production line in check, the Navy plans to completely outsources the manufacturing of all the major sections of the jet to the Private sector after having a Competitive bidding process that will start before the first jet is developed.

Naval Team will monitor Production line that might be managed by HAL but will act as Tier-I Lead partner in the program of only sub-assembled fully developed jets supplied by the Private sector. Data required for the design of undercarriage and rear fuselage for the TEDBF to carry out operations from an aircraft carrier already has been collected from the LCA-Navy Mk1 program that has acted as Tech Demonstrator for the TEDBF program and the expertise gained will be used to perfect the design of the TEDBF which is still going refinements. Computer-generated renderations of the TEDBF that were made available through official channels last year are not the final design of the jet and the first reveal might only happen at the upcoming Aero India 2021 or at later date since final design freeze might not happen before 2023-24.

ADA and Navy have also agreed on the development of dedicated trainer aircraft based on TEDBF and the fourth aircraft will likely be one trainer to be used to train new pilots. idrw.org has been told unlike LCA-Tejas Trainer that had better forward visibility due to airframe changes in the forward section when compared to single-seater LCA-Tejas Mk1, TEDBF will not have such radical design changes and will be a tandem-seated trainer with minimal airframe design changes to accommodate the second pilot that will be carrier operational capable too and in fact might be first to be manufactured before single-seaters ones goes into production in 2030.

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