The exact details of the local production still have to be worked out, but sources in New Delhi say some of the initial agreement of 200 choppers might be bought directly from the Russian production plant; illustrating the need of India to quickly beef up its number of helicopters.
The Ka-226T is likely starting the replacement of 34 Cheetahs (Alouette II) of the Air Force and the 48 Cheetahs of the Indian Navy, built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). In the second phase the 74 remaining HAL Chetaks (Alouette III) of the Air Force and the 60 of the Indian Army might see decommissioning with the introduction of the Kamovs. The Ka-225Ts are to serve next to the somewhat troubled HAL Dhruv, India’s indigenous helicopter development. Other Ka-226T will be fielded on the civilian market.
The new Indian Air Force Light Combat Aircraft – known as the Tejas – will not be acceptable for combat duty until at least 2019. Noting recent criticism made by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the authority that keeps an eye on what the Indian government spends its money on, the Tejas has severe shortcomings that have not to been easy to solve.
The LCA Tejas is being build by India’s own Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Despite the number prototypes and pre-production examples slowly coming to 20 aircraft, the problems with the future combat jet continue.
“LCA Mark-I, which achieved Initial Operational Clearance in December 2013 has significant shortfalls as a result of which it will have reduced operational capabilities and reduced survivability, thereby limiting its operational employability when inducted into IAF squadrons. LCA Mark-I does not meet the standards. The deficiencies are now expected to be met in LCA Mark-II by December 2018,” according to a CAG report released this week. This will mean that combat readiness can be expected in January 2019 at the earliest.
One of the significant problems is the electronic self protection suite, like HAL not having been able yet to construct the jammer into the plane. Moreover, HAL needs to incorporate more foreign bought elements, since Indian industries failed to develop a well-functioning engine, radar and information display systems for the pilot.
Despite claims by HAL that the Tejas is functioning up to 70 percent of what it has been promised to do, the CAG puts that percentage on a mere 35 percent.
Problems with the Tejas have resulted in the Indian Air Force having to keep its aging fleets of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s, Mirage fighters and Jaguar attack jets longer in service, with an increasing cost for maintenance and overhaul.
Despite all criticism, HAL, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy say to be confident that in due course the Tejas will be a robust part of the Asian nation’s defence and strike capabilities.
UPDATED 28 APRIL 2015 | The strong earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April 2015, with 7.8 on the Richter scale the country’s strongest in 80 years, has had nations scramble their resources to come to the rescue of the Himalayan state. Several countries have put part of their air forces on alert to dispatch aid and rescue / recovery teams to the areas hit.
As expected other Asian nations have responded fairly fast. According to sources in New Delhi the Indian Air Force have directed a pair of its ten Boeing C-17A Globemaster IIIs strategic airlifters to the rescue / recovery / repatriation effort, as well as a Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, an Ilyushin IL-76 and a pair of Mil Mi-17 helicopters. The Republic of Singapore Air Force is sending three of its ten Hercules aircraft; the Pakistan Air Force sent four of its 18 C-130s and the Royal Thai Air Force committed Hercs as well. Qatar dispatched two civilian Qatar Airways Cargo Airbus A330 to Kathmandu. China sent its rescue team on an Air China Airbus A330.
Sweden initially committed a team of 72 men and women plus 12 dogs to help Nepalese authorities in the search for survivors and recovery efforts, but later decided to send 30 people and no dogs on board a civilian freighter. The team has enough supplies and essentials to be self-sufficient for two weeks and left Örebro Airport in the centre of the country at around 21:20 local time on Monday 27 April. Earlier it was thought that the bigger team would go on one of the EU/NATO’s three C-17A Globmasters based at Papa Airbase in Hungary. Sweden is one of the main users of this small pool of European airlift.
The Netherlands sent a Urban Search and Rescue team of 62 men/women and 8 dogs to the area, using a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) KDC-10. The team will depart the Netherlands on Sunday evening. Five tonnes of aid accompanies the team on board the RNLAF aircraft. The UK is sending a C-17 Globemaster and C-130 Hercules, while the US has ordered a C-17 with 70 disaster assistance personnel and 45 square tonnes of cargo to the region.
Nepal Army Air Wing
The resources of Nepal itself are spread thin. The Nepal Army Air Wing only has a few air assets available. The fixed wing fleet consists of two Antonov AN-28 light transport aircraft, a Britten Norman BN-2 Islander utility aircraft and a Hawker Siddeley HS 748 transport aircraft.
A quartet of Indian-made HAL Dhruv, four Alouette IIIs and five Mil Mi-17 “Hip” make up the mainstay of the rotary wing. It is complemented by a Eurocopter (Airbus Helicotpers) AS350 Écureuil and two Aérospatiale SA315 Alouette IIs/Lamas. A bigger Eurocopter (Airbus Helicopters) AS332 Puma is configured for VIP flights. The Nepal Army has only one main base of operations, part of Kathmandu Airport, but there are at least 36 airfields spread across the country that can be used for air operations.
It is not known if and how many aircraft in Nepal have been damaged by the earthquake. Private rotary wing is available as well, but we have no numbers at this time.
“If there is any future purchase of more of these combat aircraft, they will be done only after direct negotiations between the French and Indian governments,” Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar told reporters – including those of international press agency Reuters – on Monday 13 April.
The statement seems both good and bad news for the indigenous aviation industry of India, led by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Good, because the New Delhi government has signaled to find the Rafale quite expensive making possibly more room for HAL’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) that is already due to stream into the Air Force and Naval Air Arm by numbers. Bad, because HAL’s hope for a transfer of Rafale technology to be able to produce 108 of the highly-modern aircraft under license seems now gone up in smoke.
For French Dassault it is now hoping for continuing goodwill and friendship between Paris and New Delhi, to get a follow-on order for its top-of-the-bill multirole fighter. Deemed too expensive even by recent quotes of government officials in New Delhi, the second largest populated country in the world still has agreed to buy 36 of them directly from the French aircraft factory. The final target of the Indian Air Force: to beef up its fighter strength from the current 34 squadrons to the approved 42. That’ll mean a lot of new aircraft to come.
Great news for aviation enthousiasts who love great designs: Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) just sent its first SEPECAT/HAL Jaguar Darin III upgraded maritime strike aircraft with improved features airborne last week.
Despite the joy of this flight, the Darin III program – short for display, attack, range and inertial navigation – has hit significant delays. A maritime strike Jaguar Darin III already went airborne at Bengaluru in November 2012, but the Indian Air Force was reportedly unhappy with the improvements. A new schedule was put in place and the upgraded Jaguar is now aiming for its final test evaluations at the end of 2017.
The IAF has assigned three Jaguars to the modification test program: a strike, a maritime strike and a training version of the Jaguar. With last weeks flight the maritime strike version made two confirmed flights, the standard strike version has made four flights so far, while the trainer hasn’t been airborne yet.
The Darin III gives the Jaguar a new mission computer, developed by HAL, as well as better radar functions. The cockpit will see the installation of two multifunctional displays, while the aircraft’s weapon, navigation and electronic warfare systems will be improved as well. Moreover, the Jaguars are getting a new engine.
An initial batch of 60 Jaguars is planned to undergo the Darin III upgrade as soon as the test and evaluation is done. But more might follow. The Indian Air Force has 100 to 115 operational strike and maritime strike versions of the Jaguar on strength, plus 30 operational trainers.
The SEPECAT Jaguar was designed and developed in the late 1960s by Breguet of France and British Aerospace of the United Kingdom, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited constructing the strike aircraft under license. More than 540 have been built. The French Air Force retired the type in 2005 in favour of the new Dassault Rafale. London forced the Royal Air Force to stop flying the type in April 2007, causing a shortfall in the strike capabilities of the RAF that haven’t been quite replaced yet even though Eurofighter Typhoons have entered service in numbers.