Sunday, October 18, 2015

Indian Air Force Discusses Future Combat Aircraft–Again

by Neelam Mathews  - October 15, 2015, 11:16 AM
Indian air force chief of air staff AM Arup Raha reviews engine component production at HAL’s Koraput factory. (Photo: Indian MoD)
The Indian Air Force continues to mull alternative plans for its future combat aircraft fleet. But despite a recent call by chief of staff AM Arup Raha to speed up production of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), a senior MoD official has told AIN that India will exercise its option for 36 more Rafales in a year’s time. The contract for the first 36 is expected to be signed shortly.
Despite years of development, the IAF has received only one LCA from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), for weapons integration and testing. Another three are due to be delivered by mid-2016, and HAL has said it can produce up to eight LCAs annually, after investment in jigs, tools and fixtures. The IAF placed an order for an initial 40 LCA Mk1s with GE F404 engines, but entry-into-service will be at least six years later than promised. Moreover, AM Raha implied that the aircraft as currently configured does not meet IAF requirements. “We want the LCA that HAL is working on now with an improved radar, electronic warfare, flight refueling and better missiles,” he said. A Mk2 version of the LCA has been designed, with increased thrust GE F414 engines, but Raha made no reference to it. Meanwhile, HAL confirmed this week that the single LCA already delivered to theIAF  has been grounded following a landing gear problem.

Meanwhile, the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) is still facing technical and work share issues. The Indian defense ministry’s Defense Research and Development Organization has proposed an indigenous alternative designated the Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft (AMCA). But Raha told AIN that “it will take 15 years of work” to produce the AMCA…if the FGFA does not come.”

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