Despite continued criticism on the jet’s performance, India still seems to have enough confidence in its indigenous Tejas fighter jet to open up a second production line. Meanwhile, Swedish Saab is offering its Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to be installed in the Tejas.
The government in New Delhi has just cleared a 200 million USD investment to open up a second Tejas production line next to the existing one at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The news was announced on this week at the Aero India airshow in Bengaluru.
The Tejas jets produced, will solely be used the Indian Air Force, since the Indian Navy has rejected the naval variant and is now looking for 57 new fighter jets elsewhere. The Dassault Rafale and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet are likely candidates.
Saab hopes to sell the Indians its Gripen fighter jets instead. Possibly to win Indian harts, the Swedes now also offer their Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar plus an additional electronic warfare suite for use in the Tejas.
The final 11 of originally 30 British Aerospace Sea Harriers have said so long to their motherland India, after serving the second largest populated country in the world for 33 years.
Six Sea Harriers already left the Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Viraat on 6 March 2016, when the vessel – due to be retired itself this year – returned to Mumbai from its last cruise.
Russian-made to modern battlefield
The Indian Sea Harriers soldiered on a decade longer after the British Royal Navy retired their aircraft. Delivered first in 1983 the Indian Sea Harriers had little left to bring on a modern battlefield. Their role has been taken up by Russian-made Mikoyan-Gurevich designed, Irkut built MiG-29Ks. Of those jets – with the NATO reporting name Fulcrum – 30 of 45 ordered have been delivered.
Indian Navy aircraft carriers
The new breed will has not only equipped the air wing of the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya with a nice combat element, it will also serve on board the new INS Vikrant when it will start sailing in 2019.
Sea Harriers in museums
For the remaining 11 India Sea Harriers the Autumn of their lives might come with a spotlight, when they will keep on serving as museum items on several locations. For now, they are stored at Indian Naval Air Station Hansa in Goa, until they began what must be the last journey of their lives. No more vertical take-offs, just a final landing.
The Indian Navy MiG-29K shipborne fighter fleet is getting closer to completion. Russian Aircraft Corporation said another four will be delivered before 2016 starts.
On 11 December 2015 two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29K (NATO-reporting name “Fulcrum”) made their way to the Indian Navy, built by the Russian Aircraft Corporation. The aircraft form the main element of the combat air wing of the Indian Navy aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and from 2018 also of the new INS Vikrant.
India ordered a total of 45 MiG-29Ks, sixteen in a contract from 2004 followed by a second deal for 29 aircraft in 2010. The Russian Navy operates the type as well.
Indian MiG-29K squadrons
In the end the Indian Navy will form four squadrons with its Fulcrums: the first for the Vikramaditya, the second shore-based in Goa, the third shore-based at Dega (Vizag) and the fourth for the Vikrant. The shore-based units will rotate with the shipborne ones or may even be deployed together at sea.
INS Vikrant Carrier Air Wing
The INS Vikrant is the first aircraft carrier ever built in India. The gas turbine powered vessel is set to be able to operate 20 MiG-29Ks plus 15 indigenous HAL Tejas attack and close air support aircraft. The combat element of the carrier air wing will be supported by a pair of Kamov Ka-31 (“Helix”), two Westland Sea Kings and 2 HAL Dhruv utility helicopters.
As reported here on Airheadsfly.com earlier this month, the future of the Mk2 version of the Indian Tejas indigenous fighter jet is uncertain. And on Monday 19 October it became even more uncertain as the Indian Navy reported it is reviewing the Mk2’s development.
The Indian Air Force has basically already stated it is planning for 120 Tejas fighters in its current development state and incorporating a number of structural design changes. A new Mk2 version with a more GE F-414 engine and air-to-air refueling capability is off the table as far as the air force goes.
That decision leaves the Indian Navy on its own for the Mk2 version. The added power is welcome bonus for operations aboard an aircraft carrier, but the Navy is now ‘reviewing’ the Mk2 version also. The first Mk2 originally was planned to fly in two years from now, but that – if it ever flies – seems highly unlikely now.
Russian company Fazotron-NIIR is improving the on board radar of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29K shipborne fighter jets of the Russian Navy and the new serial production MiG-35 aircraft, or Fulcrum respectively Fulcrum-F if we go by the NATO-reporting names for these types.
The modernization of the Zhuk-M radar focuses on improving software. “It will add new means to how the radar works with land and sea targets”, a statement of the state-owned Russian Aircraft Corporation (RAC) reads. The Indian Navy’s MiG-29K/KUBs are also to profit from the improvements, with their radars being designated Zhuk-ME – with the E for Export.
MiG-29s and MiG-35s equipped with the Zhuk-M(E) can track 20 air targets and attack four simultaneously from ranges of at least 65 nautical miles (120 km) in air-to-air mode, and up to 27 nm (50 km) for surface targets.