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At Aero India 2023, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) showcased a poster of the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) featuring a significant design change: a blunt, rounded nose cone replacing the previously planned angled, stealth-optimized frontal radome.

The new design retains the leading-edge extensions (LEX), canards, and diverterless supersonic inlets (DSI) seen in the earlier iteration. Sources familiar with the matter have confirmed that this new configuration is likely the final design that will enter production once the program receives Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) clearance.

The estimated cost of the TEDBF program is 14,000 crores. The new design bears a striking resemblance to the Dassault Rafale fighter jets, particularly in its overall shape and canopy layout. However, the TEDBF will feature DSI intakes, a notable feature absent in the Rafale.

While the Indian Navy is currently preparing to place orders for 26 Rafale M jets for aircraft carrier operations, the similarity in appearance between the TEDBF and the Rafale is bound to spark debates once the ADA officially confirms the new design selection for the program.

Potential Advantages of the New TEDBF Design:

  • RCS: The rounded nose cone may not offer a smaller radar cross-section (RCS) compared to the angled design.
  • Improved Internal Volume: The blunt nose cone could provide more internal space for equipment and avionics, leading to greater flexibility and customization options.
  • Reduced Costs: A simpler design could translate into lower manufacturing and maintenance costs compared to a more complex configuration.

Potential Challenges of the New TEDBF Design:

  • Aerodynamic Performance: There is a possibility that the rounded nose cone could affect the aircraft’s aerodynamic performance, potentially impacting its speed and manoeuvrability.
  • Stealth Trade-Offs: While the new design might offer a smaller RCS than the original angled radome, it might not be as stealthy as the earlier configuration.
  • Debates and Comparisons: The resemblance to the Rafale could lead to questions about the need for a separate indigenous program and the potential duplication of efforts.

Overall, the new design for the TEDBF program represents a significant shift in direction. While it remains to be seen whether this new configuration will offer the desired performance and capabilities, it certainly adds an intriguing dimension to the development of this critical project for the Indian Navy.

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