SOURCE: RAJESH AHUJA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Short Sightedness by Admirals and planners who lacked vision might be blamed but the Indian Navy’s Flagship INS Vikrant aircraft carrier indeed does have a puny lift with dimensions of 10mx 14m that were made keeping in mind the LCA-Navy Mk2 program that has been now canceled for the much larger TEDBF program.
The proposed single-engine LCA-Navy Mk2, with a maximum take of weight of 16500 tons could be an ideal fighter jet for an aircraft carrier with these elevators but the LCA-Navy Mk2 program died some say due to intense rivalry between top naval aviators of the Navy that ultimately led to TEDBF program.
Now Navy is stuck with two fighter jets that it doesn’t want to operate from the INS Vikrant, Russian-supplied Mig-29K fleet faces several issues with its airframe and is likely to meet its early grave sometime in 2035 with less than 25 years of service life and LCA-Navy Mk1 that might be inducted in small numbers (8units) but limited to providing training to new Naval aviators.
F/A-18F Super Hornet seems to be a clear winner for the Indian Navy’s tender for 26 MRCBFs under which it requires eight twin-seat aircraft and 18 single-seat aircraft because Rafale M doesn’t have twin-seater and unfoldable wings mean it simply can’t be taken to lower decks for repairs or maintenance. Boeing has promised that it can supply 2 Super Hornets per month after a gap of 36 months after the contract is concluded and a whole lot of 26 jets in just over 13-14 months.
TEDBF program that is made keeping INS Vikrant is still a long way before it matures. ADA has promised the first flight in 2026 and production in 2031 which is way too ambitious for the program considering how slow the LCA- Navy Mk1 program was. 2035 production timeline could be a realistic timeline for HAL to start delivering TEDBF to the Navy and another 4 years to fully replace the Mig-29K fleet of 40+ jets.
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