New Naval Fighter Cleared For Development, First Flight Likely by 2026
The project by India to develop a twin engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF) shows the competence and confidence of ADA and HAL. The experience in the development of the Tejas fighter jet has now paved the way for the future. On May 27, the Indian Air Force operationalised its second Tejas fighter jet squadron.
The prototype of the new naval fighter-jet, being designed to operate from the deck of India’s two aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and the soon to be inducted INS Vikrant, is meant to fly within six years with induction of the fighter within a decade.
The Tejas-N programme started earlier culminated with a series of landing and take-offs from INS Vikramaditya where two prototypes of the jet were able to successfully land on the carrier and take off.
Buoyed by the success of trial landings of the Tejas-N fighter on board the Navy aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has given the go ahead for the development of a twin engine made-in-India fighter jet. The development phase is expected to cost between Rs 7,000 and Rs 8,000 crore.
The development of this aircraft was discussed on May 22 at ADA’s Annual General Body meet, its highest governing body. The meeting was chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and was attended by the Navy and Air Force Chiefs. Subsequent to this meeting, the Operational Requirements (ORs) for the new fighter were issued by the Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence (Navy).
The design and development of the new Indian fighter, an advanced variant of the single-engine Tejas-N, have benchmarked the performance characteristics of the jet to Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F “Super Hornet”, in service with the US Navy and the Marine Rafale, deployed on the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. They say the new jet may imbibe technologies being developed for the IAF’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) but will not be a stealth fighter in the same class.
At least three variations of the design of the new fighter are being studied presently and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) tests and wind tunnel modelling will ensure the optimum shape of the fighter to match its projected operational capabilities. It’s still unclear whether the new fighter will be a tail-less delta platform, similar to the IAF’s LCA Tejas fighter or, for that matter, feature canards, a small fore wing placed ahead of the main wing of the aircraft to aid manoeuvrability.
The new fighter, once inducted, is meant to supplement and ultimately replace the Indian Navy’s fleet of MiG-29K fighters presently in service on board the INS Vikramaditya.
The new indigenous fighter is designed to be more reliable. The new fighter to be able to be armed with at least six air to air missiles with an operational endurance of approximately two hours.
The most advanced variant of the fighter for the IAF, the Tejas Mk-2 is expected to be inducted by 2025. The new fighter being developed for the Navy is being classified as an altogether different fighter and is expected to be superior to the IAF’s Tejas Mk-2 in several respects, once developed.