SOURCE: IDRW NEWS NETWORK
Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) program for the Indian Navy aims to provide a 24-tonne Twin-engine fighter aircraft which will replace the Mig-29K fleet in the Indian Navy. Navy has asked ADA for TEDBF to be better than the Russian Supplied Mig-29K fighter jets which currently operates on the deck of INS Vikramaditya. Indian Navy joined the LCA-Navy Mk1 program a little late in 2004-5 fully knowing that it won’t be able to meet its operational requirements, initial funding was to develop technologies required to develop an Mk2 fighter jet which can operate from the deck of the aircraft carrier.
In 2016, Indian Navy was having second thoughts on the development of the single-engined medium role Naval Mk2 fighter jet and had informed ADA that it could rather invest in a Twin engined 5th generation stealth aircraft over a single-engined Naval Mk2 and soon it was decided that Naval Mk2 program will be abandoned and ADA will start clean slate 4.5 generation fighter jet program for the Indian Navy .
ADA did a feasibility study on the 5th Generation AMCA for the Navy but both agreed that technology maturity for carrier-based Naval 5th generation jet is still not there until and unless ADA has some experience in development of Naval jet capable of operations from the aircraft carrier, so LCA-Navy Mk1 prototypes (NP1 and NP2) which were sitting idle in the hangar in Bangalore for over a year was reactivated and the focus shifted to get the technology know-how crucial to a carrier-based aircraft first before next program can be announced which meant program has to clear many milestones required and it did achieve almost all set milestone required by the Navy before it could commence aircraft carrier trial which will start soon.
Naval Mk2 model displayed at the Aero India 2019 created a lot of confusion initially and many were not sure if the Navy doesn’t want to operate a single-engine fighter jet from its aircraft carriers then why ADA was still working on the Mk2 design showcased at the Aero show. It is more or less confirmed now that the work on the TEDBF program started around the 2016-17 period itself even when ADA was carrying out feasibility studies on the Naval-AMCA only thing it was kept under wrap waiting for Navy’s approvals.
Navy has two options let ADA work on the development of clean sheet 5th generation fighter jet which according to the promised timeline could make its first flight by 2030-31 and will enter around 7-8 years down the line, once major work on the air force’s AMCA program is completed or agree to allow ADA work on Naval-AMCA version but ADA had identified some of the problems that the program it was gonna face and certain shortfalls in the operational capabilities which Navy had to live with due the conversion of airforce variant into naval variant due to which Navy agreed to pursue the development of 5th generation fighter at a later stage.
But Navy had to still decide between two 4.5 generation programs offered by the ADA. Single engined Naval Mk2 concept proposed by the ADA was a 16.5-tonne aircraft with many unique features with better carrier handling characters but Navy apparently wanted the comfort of the second engine for safety reasons and also was not impressed with the weapons load it could carry which was due to screwed thrust-to-weight ratio ( TWR ) which forced pilot to rely more on aerodynamic lift which is not preferred by Naval pilots when rough seas can make landing back on the deck of an aircraft carrier a herculean task,so after careful consideration it was rejected in somewhere around 2018.
TEDBF program was approved after careful consideration looking into the future requirements of carrier-based aircraft which can serve both on INS Vikrant and INS Vishal from 2031 onwards. Navy had planned to procure 57 Carrier-based fighter jets after not so impressive record of the Russian Mig-29K fleet in the service and also due to budget issues, it is unlikely it will be approved due to which Navy cleared TEDBF program over Naval Mk2 concept to be future-ready when it is ready for induction after 2030.
At 24 tonnes, TEDBF will have the same Max take-off weight has that of the Mig-29K and Navy already has briefed ADA about all the serious flaws and issues it has been facing with the aircraft and ADA now will develop an aircraft which is superior to the performance of the Mig-29K. Navy wants TEDBF to be Multi-Role and be able to handle Air Defence and Anti-ship and Ground attack roles with ease. Powered by two F414-GE-INS6 engines, at 24 tonnes with two 98 kN Thrust class engines it will have TWR ratio which will be better then that of the 1.09 which is of the Mig-29K if ADA can achieve its Empty target weight of 11 tonnes.
Mig-29K is powered by two RD-33MK engines generating 88.3 kN of the thrusts each due to which it was able to achieve a TWR ratio of 1.09. If ADA can hit that sweet empty weight spot of 11 tonnes in the TEDBF program then due to more powerful engines it will have a TWR ratio of 1.13 or even better which is the same that of the Rafale M and were close to the TWR ratio of 1.14 of the Su-30MKI.
Way a Head
TEDBF program is already in the design stage and according to media leaks that are coming out it will just not be a twin-engined Naval Mk2 concept which was showcased earlier rather it will be based on various twin-engine MCA designs which ADA design team had worked on before development began on the AMCA program.
ADA design team which worked on the LCA-Navy Mk1 prototypes and proposed Naval Mk2 concept is working on the TEDBF program again and problems faced by the team on the LCA-Navy Mk1 prototypes was largely due to over-engineering of the components which lead to several revisions in the design and hardware to reduce weight, especially its landing gear mechanism.
ADA Navy design team is now 10 year veteran in the design and development of the Naval fighter with only two prototype development and is confident that the initial prototypes can be developed as per money committed by the Indian Navy to the Mark-2 program for which funds already has been approved by the Government some time back.
Navy will have to commit more money at a later stage of the TEDBF program but now it gets to build a jet it wants as per its customization and not depend on the aircraft designed as per requirements set by a foreign navy. Navy has committed to procure 50 initially but that figure can go up if the 5th generation Naval fighter program is dealyed. ADA almost has the design ready of the TEDBF but has still kept it under the wraps and might be showcased soon in upcoming defense expo 2020 or at the Aero India 2021.
ADA has promised to divert money it has secured for the development of two LCA-Navy Mk2 to develop the first two TEDBF prototypes which will be ready by 2025 for rollout and by 2026 for its first flight. ADA and Navy will have a separate team for the TEDBF program and it will be based in the INS Hansa Goa so that initial trials from the shore-based aircraft carrier ramp and landing stip can be used to handle phase-I of the trials later to be shifted to the aircraft carrier trials. ADA believes that both Phase-I and Phase-II can be divided into three years each so that it is ready to hit production by 2031-32.
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