Naval LCA: US puts Lockheed Martin off Tejas flight path - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 27 September 2009

Naval LCA: US puts Lockheed Martin off Tejas flight path

The Lockheed Martin JSF-35 Lightening, which will also operate off aircraft carriers. The US company was to help India with the Naval Tejas, but Washington has not given clearance.

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Sept 09

The US government is, for the second time, squeezing American aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, out of an important contract relating to India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

Business Standard has learned that Lockheed Martin, which was selected in June as a consultant for developing the Naval version of the Tejas, was given 90 days to obtain the clearances it needs from the US government. But now, with time running out, Washington has sent Lockheed Martin a list of questions about what assistance the company will provide.

Senior officials from the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which manages the Tejas programme, say they will not delay the Naval Tejas any longer. The ADA has recommended to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that another consultant be chosen. It has put forward the names of France’s Dassault Aviation, and European consortium, EADS.

For Lockheed Martin, this is déjà vu. In 1993, it was selected to partner ADA in developing the Tejas’ high-tech flight control system (FCS). But after India’s nuclear tests in 1998, Washington ordered Lockheed Martin to terminate the partnership. India eventually went it alone, developing the world class FCS that is on the Tejas today.

Lockheed Martin is still fighting to salvage the situation. The company told Business Standard, “We are continuing our dialogue with the Aeronautical Development Agency and the U.S. Department of Defense and are hopeful we will be able provide the consultancy desired by ADA on the Naval LCA.”

But the decision now lies in the hands of Dr VK Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister.

Lockheed Martin’s current situation replicates that of Boeing, which was front-runner for the air force Tejas consultancy. But earlier this year, after the US government failed to grant Boeing a clearance (called a Technical Assistance Agreement) in time, the MoD awarded EADS the contract. The European consortium obtained the sanctions in time and is now working with ADA.

Foreign consultancy has been sought by ADA to introduce the Tejas into service without further delay. The air force Tejas, a single-seat, single-engine fighter, is at an advanced stage of testing. The naval Tejas, being developed around the twin-seater air force trainer, will only take to the skies by mid-2010. But it will only fly off an aircraft around 2014, after getting a new, more powerful, engine. That is about when the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, being built in Kochi, will join the Indian Navy.

The immediate challenges before the Naval Tejas --- which the consultant will help to resolve --- include strengthening the undercarriage to absorb the high impact of landing on aircraft carrier decks; fitting an arrestor hook at the tail of the aircraft to bring it to a quick halt after landing; and adding a flap on the front edge of the wings to slow down the landing speed by almost 150 kmph.

In addition, the Naval Tejas needs a “fuel dump system” in case of an emergency just after take-off. The take off weight of a Tejas, with full weapons load and fuel is around 12.5 tonnes but, for landing back on an aircraft carrier it must be less than 9.5 tonnes. In an emergency, 2 tonnes of weapons and external fuel tanks will be instantly shed; but a system must be built in for jettisoning another tonne of fuel from the fighter’s wing tanks.

None of the US Navy’s most successful carrier-borne aircraft --- the F-4 Phantom; the F-14 Tomcat and the F/A-18 Hornet --- were built by Lockheed Martin. Despite that, ADA believes Lockheed Martin’s experience in designing the futuristic F-35 Lightening Joint Strike Fighter qualifies it as a consultant.

“All the earlier US navy aircraft had two engines, giving them the weight and strength to support a tail hook”, explained Dr PS Subramaniam, the Director of ADA, “But Lockheed Martin has designed the F-35 Lightening, which is a single-engine fighter with a tail hook.”

Dassault’s Rafale fighter and EADS’s Eurofighter Typhoon are both twin-engine aircraft.


  1. Dear Ajai,

    Although I respect your views and generally find them unbiased, in this particular case, the tone suggests an imaginary shift in US policy – i.e. the US government hindering LM's assistance to ADA with some strategic ulterior motive. In my opinion, it would have been more apt to describe it as a bureaucratic hindrance, as both US and India (in their self-interests) would have to eventually and incrementally work together, for foreseeable reasons.

    - Richin

  2. This is what happens when two of the biggest democracies in the world try to work together. Nothing beyond bureaucratic wrangling.

  3. Richin,
    Mr Obama is trying to micro manage too many things.

  4. we dont change our ways and US of A wont change its way of functioning.SA to RM sir pls do something and stop this bureaucratic wrangle.Even if it grants permission to LM, LM doesnt have the requisite experience for carrier landing...The search goes on and on...

  5. Wow. Great.

    Now something about the Arjun Tank please.

  6. India must learn to keep a safe distance from the U.S. It's U.S sanctions that hurt the same LCA program. The U.S will not change their stance towards India for the near future. The mistrust towards India will always be there for another 10-15 years. The Ostrich U.S head is still struck deep in the sand. I don't think that they will change the policy of supporting terrorists and dictators to supporting realistic pluralistic democracies like India.

  7. @ Anonymous: Mr Obama is trying to micro manage too many things.

    Although I agree that Mr. Obama is not as inclined towards India as he ought to be, it wouldn’t be fair to say that he is out to get us. In my view, he is too idealistic and not shrewd enough to checkmate American rivals. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting “checkmating” as the best way forward, but unfortunately all politics today is Machiavellian in nature.

    @ Anonymous: India must learn to keep a safe distance from the U.S…

    Again, I agree that we need to be independent and pursue our national interests, but my kindness in judgment towards the US comes from a simple strategy: our “potential” enemy’s “potential” enemy might make a good “potential” friend… (Note: I am only referring to potentials, because if the current US administration had its way, the world would morph into heaven and we would all live happily ever after). Unfortunately, I am an optimistic realist; so I find it wise to hedge against threats.

    On a separate note, in response to your point about American support for “immoral infidels”: just like the US, India also chooses to support / arm terrorists / dictators wherever and whenever it benefits us, because if we don’t, somebody else will; the trouble is, our scope of influence is currently limited…

    - Richin

  8. I don't bother about what is US govt doing. They will never supply India or any other country something without bugs.

    But the question is why we are going for their systems? Are we mad?

    If any US fighter chosen for MMRCA then see what happens....

  9. Wasn't it stupid of ADA to have gone for ANOTHER US firm LM after having troubles getting clearance for Boeing's collaboration?
    If the government blocking our progress is the same what's the point trying through different companies and wasting time?

  10. So just to be clear....LHM will be helping out with engine problems with kaveri?

    Kaveri has gone to Russia for high altitude testing...what if it passes the tests ..then what?

    If not the engine then what ?

  11. If Kaveri passes tests expected of Western engines, I will strip down to nothing and dance lalu lalu all the way to Connaught Place.

  12. Absolutely not. India has not followed the policy of supporting dictators and abetting terrorists. Did not even take out the terrorists in Pakistan forget about anything else.

  13. Oye Demello - cya in CP.

  14. There isn't much in this report that we had to bother about. After all we have been seeing many technology denials from unkil off late.

    We can very well approach Russian or french friends who also has enough experience in manufacturing carrier based aircrafts.

    Also me thinks that the argument of Russians and french lacking experience in single engine carrier based aircraft is not apt. Even for americans, F-35 is the first single engine naval platform isn't it? When they can make it, others can very well make it.

  15. Quick question - because considering the history between the US and India in the past few years and the willingness of the US to help India- has lead me to another speculation.

    Why has Boeing not been approached for assistance in this project? Considering they have extensive knowledge in fielding air-crafts of carriers??

    So that lead me to speculate if it was Boeing who has thrown a wrench into LM's plans? They have lobbyists and senators who owe favors etc..

    Just a thought-

  16. Any Pictures and updates on LCA Tejas Trainer, LSP-3 & Weapons testing?

  17. what happened to the planned september date of the Macho Arjun with the dame T-90?

  18. I know this is nit-picking, but....
    It's the F-35 Lightning (and not Lightening).

  19. Ajai ji,
    You should not allow any vulgar language in your blog. The Anonym@20:51 is too much.

    Mr Anonym@20:51, India is a free country and one can express his or her own opinion. You can criticize other comments. But the way you used your words, show how low you are. Let Mr. Vincent expresses his views. If you do not like him, just ignore.

  20. LCA is facing major technical issues. thats why there is no news on it..HAL/ADA is keeping their mouth closed and folks like Ajai are asked to keep quite on that.

    Otherwise the last update on LCA was loong back. why No news after weapon integration test.

    hope Ajai knows what is happening in LCA hanger.... but keeps quite as he is not willing to tell any thing..

    I am one of the billion hearts waiting to hear on LCA.. but what to do our Folks are more worried about China now

  21. Col Shukla,
    I am posting after along time on you blog(Fist since you have come back from hibernation). The point here is US will eventually relent on few things (Tech/ Knowledge transfer) as it looks to maintain it's hegemony and also limit the drain on it's resources. India, being the status quo power is the perfect partner- Young fighting capable manpower as well as the perpetual hostile environment India faces makes it jump to the Unkil for solution.
    Naval LCA help should come as far as i think it could have been withheld due to..
    1. Some old Cold war warriors in Pentagon
    2. Some economic mandarins calculating long term loss of possible business.
    3. May be pressure from the Terrorist state of Pakistan lovers.

    In the end it should come.

  22. Helping the LCA is like training a bow-legged man to challenge for the Olympics 100m sprint.

    Crippling and meaningless, like snow on the steppes.

  23. what the hell were the ADA & DRDO guys doing all along for so many years. Instead of asking for others for help why dont you outsource the defense of the country to someone else. Fire all the lazy parasites in HAL who drink tax payers blood and do nothing.


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