Navy, eager for Tejas, placing orders for 8 naval fighters - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 11 December 2012

Navy, eager for Tejas, placing orders for 8 naval fighters

By Ajai Shukla
Aeronautical Development Agency, Bangalore
Business Standard, 12.12.12

Earlier this year, then naval chief, Admiral Nirmal Verma, lamented the delay in building the naval version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). Last week, the current naval chief, Admiral DK Joshi, declared that the navy wanted the Tejas more urgently than any fighter aircraft from abroad.

Following words with action the navy will shortly issue a request for proposals (RfP) to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for building eight naval Tejas fighters, a mix of twin-seat trainers and single-seat fighters, worth some Rs 1,000 crore. Both the MoD and the Cabinet Committee on Security have cleared the purchase. HAL will respond with a quotation, a price will be negotiated, and the building of the aircraft would commence next year.

So far --- to the navy’s disappointment --- only one naval LCA has been built by the Aeronautical Development Agency, or ADA, which oversees the Rs 3,650 crore naval LCA programme and the Rs 10,397 crore programme to develop a fighter for the Indian Air Force (IAF). A second naval Tejas is currently under construction. ADA has briefed Business Standard that a total of five naval Tejas prototypes will be built in the coming days, which ADA will use in the demanding flight test programme for certifying the fighter for operations off the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

The 8 fighters now being ordered by the navy --- which HAL will build in what is called limited series production, or LSP --- will be used to train naval pilots who will eventually fly the Tejas from the aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, which Cochin Shipyard would build by 2015, and from a second indigenous aircraft carrier that will follow the Vikrant.

Until these vessels are ready for flight deck operations, naval pilots will train at a new Shore-Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa, which replicates the dimensions of an aircraft carrier deck, including the arrestor wires that bring the aircraft to a halt in just 90 metres. The SBTF also has the optical landing system that aircraft carriers have, which allows a pilot to “aim” his fighter at the arrestor wire on the carrier deck. Only after extensive testing at the SBTF will the Naval LCA attempt to land and take off from an actual aircraft carrier.

ADA confirms that the Goa facility is close to completion. “We want the SBTF to be a national facility that would be available for training (naval pilots) on a wide range of aircraft. So it is built to be used by the naval LCA as well as by the MiG-29K,” says Commodore CD Balaji, who directs the Naval LCA project at ADA.

The navy has bought 45 naval MiG-29K fighters, which will operate from the INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov), which Russia will deliver only next year after unexpected delays during trials recently. The MiG-29K will also fly from the indigenous INS Vikrant, along with the naval Tejas.

Naval aviators can train on the Tejas Mark I, which is powered by the General Electric F-404IN engine. But only Tejas Mark II fighters, powered by the more powerful F-414 engine, can take off from aircraft carriers. The F-414’s additional power is essential for getting the fighters airborne in a runway length of just 200 metres, which is all that an aircraft carrier offers.

During a visit to ADA last week, Business Standard was briefed on the naval LCA. In 2003, when development of the naval variant began, ADA believed that the air force version could simply be converted into a naval fighter by strengthening the landing gear, and engineering an arrestor hooks and additional control surfaces. (A naval fighter must undergo far greater impacts while landing on an aircraft carrier deck, in what is often described as a “controlled crash.”)

“In the paper design it looked feasible, similar to what Eurofighter proposed for a navalised Typhoon; or what Gripen proposed for the Sea Gripen. But when we started the detailed design and the actual build… we realized the benefits of what Dassault had done with the Rafale. They designed and built the naval variant first, the Rafale Marine. The air force Rafale is just a subset of Rafale Marine. That is the easiest path,” says Balaji ruefully.

Instead ADA, in what has been a valuable learning experience, has arduously converted the air force Tejas into a naval version. That is the same path as RAC MiG took in building the MiG-29K naval fighter from the air force version of the MiG-29.

Now the naval Tejas must demonstrate that it can land and take off from an aircraft carrier. It has already proved this in extensive computer simulation done by a team of scientists from the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL). Next, the fighter will perform take offs and landings in realistic distances at the SBTF. ADA says it will demonstrate a take off by mid-2013 and a landing by end-2013. Only after that will the hazardous operation be performed on an aircraft carrier at sea.


  1. Navy has always been the forerunner in supporting indigenous development.

    One small correction: P71 as per last reports was said to be coming out in 2018.

  2. Col.Shukla - three sob stories in a row on the tejas, please cap it off with one happy story(something which details what has been achieved in terms of capabilities)


  3. It seems that Tejas is a Talented Orphan about whom nobody is bothered.Its obvious that IAF top brasses wont want it over foreign fighters, in lure of kickbacks from foreign companies. DPSUs have no work culture based on incentive and innovation.New talented recruits join them with romanticism but after few months their Pot Bellied bosses 'slow them down' and model them according to 10 to 5 rut of typical Govt offices.Soon all of them find their way in foreign MNCs and Babu style bosses continue with their hierarchical functioning which bears no fruits, just photos.
    We specialise in creation of slow moving govt behemoth which barely works.If we divide them into different departments then too end product never comes out because of turf war.

  4. Lets not talk about alleged kickbacks etc... I think Shri Balaji got it right, but maybe for the wrong reasons.

    If the DRDO wants its products to succeed it should get the Navy on board first. They have consistently shown their willingness for indigenization. They have always been at the forefront of the MADE IN INDIA brand. We always see them indigenizing foreign technology. This has lead to world class systems such as the Delhi and Shivalik Class'.

    Let DRDO get their success with the Navy first, then ask the other services to why they can't be more like the Navy, and cooperate by building their own internal R&D infrastructure, instead of making do with what foreigners are willing to sell to us.

  5. If the tejas is as good as you say it is, the Navy needs to make orders for more than eight.

  6. Obviously the Naval Tejas is going to be something special and we shall hope a good success for it notwithstanding the so many hassles that the overall Tejas program has so far faced.

  7. Rahul Samanta(Kolkata)12 December 2012 at 18:02

    Ajai ji,

    What about the 6 fighters already ordered by the Navy in 2009? Are these the 5 prototypes that are being built and the one that is already flying?

    But kudos to the IN. This is what committment to indigenisation means far ahead of the verbal commentary which the other 2 services are master at....

  8. It is overwhelmingly AWESOME to hear about such positive vibes coming from the Navy about the N-Tejas !

    The Air Force should take a leaf from the Navy's book in their commitment to indigenization.

    The N-Tejas will surely be a very valuable addition to the Navy. It shall be the best Naval fighter made in Asia.

  9. This is an insult to tejas. It is a 4.5++ gen fighter and we must order more....otherwise our industry will always be doing ToT and learning how to turn the screws!!! we need to start a collection to purchase Tejas. We the public are this Last Chance Aircraft's only hope.

  10. @ Abinav : I admire your determination to display your utter ignorance about the MOD procurement process in India. If you have proof about the "obvious" Air Force top brass taking kickbacks from foreign companies put it on the table otherwise zip it.
    @ Rahul Samanta and Abhiman : Extolling the navy's support for indigenization and bemoaning the other services is the flavour of the month for amateur defence enthusiasts, but a closer look doesn't really support that view. FYI, the order book for the AF Tejas already stands at 40 for the Mk1 alone. Can you blame them for getting upset when timelines have defaulted over and over and over again? The Navy has let the AF bear the brunt of the induction process, and has stepped in with their order when things have finally come to some semblance of fruition.

  11. IAF has ordered 40 Tejas. IN 8. IA has ordered 126 +126 Arjun tanks. IA is also ready to order local howitzers . What prevents PSU from delivering or why are we preventing large scale private sector participation .

  12. Converting a fighter to a Naval fighter is old hat-IF you know your job. The Seafire and the Sea Hurricane come immediately to mind followed by the ME109T. The FJ3 of which the US navy bought 600 plus actually was better than the F86 Sabre on which it was based. Dassault developed the Etendard IVn from the light Etendard II.But let it be.

    With half a century of Naval Aviation experience behind us even at the start of the NLCA project to say Naval fighter design is "new" makes one wonder what kind of Bureaucrats are pretending to be Engineers. Flareless landings and sink rates are literally "schoolboy's " knowledge. A trip to Guindy Institute of Technology or INS Hansa at Dabolim would have given us details of the proven Seahawk's Undercarriage which is within scale able limits for the LCA's.

    But unfortunately we have- or appear to have going by the official comments- Leaders the project of whom the farmer said " You have to lift the tail so that they can see if its a cow or a bull". One of the problems of Government R&D- partially true also for the early private sector efforts is that "Managerial" ability -whatever that may be- always preceded Engineering ability- as if delivering a well engineered product on time and on budget could be done without "Managerial" ability on the part of the Engineer!

  13. @Rahul Samantha, On Tejas programme thus far, the IAF has given the core reqmt, overseen its development, coordinated and tested weaponisation and is today coordinating induction. Orders 40 nos. It has also funded and supported for double the no of Mk II. Get your facts right before letting loose!
    @Amithaba Ghosh, Yes Navy is at the forefront of Indigeniation. But who is certifying quality? Navy itself. Who is building it? Navy itself. Who is operating it? Navy itself. So is the surface combatant model applicable to Naval Aviation and Subsurface?! If you want to praise Navy's indigenisation-by all means. But dont say things you do not understand in respect of the IAF or the IA.

  14. Earlier there were reports of Two prototypes of naval LCA + 6 LCA Mark-1

    Now per this new article it seems we are talking about 5 naval LCA prototypes + 8 LCA Mark-1??? or these are all Mark-2?

  15. Mr. Anonymous, the IAF should've inducted the Tejas a long time by now, as even in this state it is orders of magnitude better than the MiG-27 and the MiG-21.

    Instead, it has given a token order of 40 on the condition that it must clear every minor nitpick, before IAF clears it for production. Till then, IAF continues to fly Soviet-era tattlers like MiG-21, MiG-27 and what not.

    Contrary to popular perception, the IAF has co-ordinated with the Tejas project more in name than substance. This is quite unlike the Navy, which has actively been co-ordinating with N-Tejas project since the word go.

  16. it is good to see that our technicians and scientists are trying hard to build something great,but it will take more time to get some great piece from them let us support them rather criticising.


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