NEW DELHI — U.K.-based Cobham is in discussions with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and India’s Aeronautical Development Agency about retrofitting a retractable refueling probe on the current model of the Light Combat Aircraft as well as the Mk2 version.
While Cobham is not certain how the business model will be globally tendered, the company’s experience will be a definite advantage, according to Lee Griffiths, director of Cobham India.
The Indian air force and navy are believed to be keen to get the fueling probe because of issues with flight handling, drag and movability.
“We will develop and design a retractable refueling probe,” Griffiths says. “LCA is a tightly packed aircraft ... Unfortunately, we’re later in the design period. We will roll out the retractable [version] by 2013-14.”
Cobham has already provided to the Indian air force 20 Buddy Refueling Pods for its Su-30s - Mark 754. Its main features include a fueldraulic hose rewind and response, digital control systems, easy installation via a pylon bolted under the fuselage and up to 75-ft. hose length.
The recent joint air combat exercise that India held with the French air force in June included a Su-30 tanker.
“The design has a refuel body that sits under the belly of the Su-30,” Griffiths says. “It allows [missions] as a tactical air-to-air refueler ... because the drogue and probe is of international standards.”
As India’s Sukhoi fleet grows, Cobham is looking at future requirements of 40-50 more. The premise is that in combat the IL-78 — India’s refueler — could become a high-value target. The Su-30 could refuel another Su-30 and “both can fight.”
The company also is in the early stage of talks with the Indian air force for the probes on helicopters. “For example, a C-130J can be retrofitted to the KC-130J,” Griffiths says. “A fueling probe on a Mi-17 can be refueled by a C-130J. The same is for the VVIP AW101, which will give flexibility to VVIP movements.”
Cobham says it has the ability to integrate mission systems capability onto helicopters including weapons carriage, safety and survival equipment and refueling probes.
- Neelam Mathews