Bag of Goodies

The IAF is busy with a variety of necessary procurements

Jaison Deepak

The first of the 36 Dassault Rafale F3 fighters purchased for the Indian Air Force (IAF) from Dassault in a government to government deal worth USD8.9 billion would be delivered from 2019 onwards. The Indian version will be equipped with the improved RBE2 AESA radar, DDG NG MAWS, other customisations like the HMS, targeting pods and weapons.

LCA Tejas during high-altitude trials
LCA Tejas during high-altitude trials

The series production batch of the 20 LCA Tejas are being inducted in Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration, the second batch of 20 would be produced in the Final Operation Clearance (FOC) configuration. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is also looking to develop an advanced variant the LCA MK1A with AESA radar and new electronic warfare; HAL has issued RFQ for the same. The variant would also have an Onboard Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) and improved glass cockpit.

The IAF is also looking to procure 100 single seat fighters for USD10 billion which would be manufactured in India under collaboration with an Indian production agency. The programme would come under the strategic partnership (SP) model where the strategic partner will be chosen. Saab has tied up with the Adani Group to offer the Gripen E fighter while Lockheed Martin has tied up with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) to offer the F-16 Block 70.

The HAL UAC Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) continues to be held up due to differences in cost and technical issues. The IAF has been unhappy with the progress of the project and the workshare assigned to India; the lack of commitment on the project from the Russian Air Force is also seen as another major issue.

The IAF is viewing the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) being developed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) as an alternative to the FGFA. The DRDO is in discussions with many global manufacturers for co-developing the fighter with many manufacturers such as Saab, Boeing and Dassault expressing willingness to participate in the programme. The DRDO is developing a 1:1 scale model to test the RCS of it for further analysis while modifications with various subsystems are in the conceptual or preliminary development stages.

The IAF currently operates around 132 Hawk MK132 aircraft and negotiations are on for acquiring 32 more to meet the training requirements. BAE-HAL have also presented the Advanced Hawk variant to the IAF but it is yet to evince interest in it, the advanced Hawk was primarily designed with the export market in mind.

HAL is looking to meet the future basic trainer needs of the IAF through the Hindustan Turbo Trainer HTT-40, two prototypes of which are already flying. HAL aims to certify them by 2019 and then begin production. The DAC had earlier recommended the IAF to purchase 40 HTT-40 trainers.

The IAF has placed an order for 10 Heron TP Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) to its existing fleet of Herons and Searchers. The Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) has developed the TAPAS MALE drone which will be primarily used for surveillance, reconnaissance and as an airborne repeater. The IAF has also expressed interest in acquiring between 100-150 MALE UAVs through the ‘Make in India’ route. At Aero India 2017 Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) showed its portfolio of MALE UAVs while Elbit showcased the Hermes 900 with the Adani group. India has also been keen in acquiring armed drones from the US.

The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has also taken up the development of the Ghatak UCAV which has low observability airframe characteristics and internal weapons carriage. The programme is in the preliminary development stage with Radar Cross Section (RCS) and wind tunnel tests. The Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) is also developing a non-after burning variant of the Kaveri engine to power the Ghatak UCAV.

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