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.
India has started the process of selecting and acquiring 57 multirole, carrier-borne fighter jets for operations on board its current and future aircraft carriers. A Request for Information (RfI) was issued this week by the Directorate of Naval Air Staff. The request follows the Indian Navy rejection of the indigenously developed Tejas fighter jet.
The RfI states that the new jets are intended as day and night capable, all weather multirole deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air defense, air to surface operations and buddy refuelling, plus recce and electronic warfare missions.
India currently operates a single aircraft carrier named INS Vikramaditya. In 2018, INS Vikrant is to be added to the fleet, with nuclear powered INS Vishal to join by 2025.
India already ordered 45 MiG-29K Fulcrums to operate from these carriers, but now is looking for additional jets. At first, those were to be naval variants of India’s locally developed Tejas fighter jet, but the Indian Navy top brass have shown no confidence in the design whatsoever and finally rejected it in late 2016.
The naval version of the Dassault Rafale may be the perfect choice for the Indian Navy, given the fact the Indian Air Force has already ordered the Rafale. However, negotiations for this deal lasted many years.
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.
The Indian Navy formally introduced the Boeing P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft into service during a ceremony at naval air base Rajali on Friday 13 November. The move comes six years after the 2.1 billion USD contract for eight P-8I aircraft was signed. The first of those aircraft arrived in 2013, while the last was delivered earlier this year.
India is looking to expand the fleet to twelve Poseidons however. Budget allowing for the purchase of four more aircraft was approved in New Delhi in July.