TWIN ENGINE CARRIER-BASED FIGHTER FOR NAVY COULD BE INDUCTED BY 2031-32

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Clearance by Cabinet Committee on Security is expected mid-2023 and it would take another 1.5-2 years for the prototype, says Project Director

As indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant gears up for aviation trials, the project to develop a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), to operate from carriers in the near future is taking shape. The project under development is expected to get approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) by mid-2023 and TEDBF could be inducted into the Navy by 2031-32, according to officials from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

Separately, officials expressed confidence that a selection between Boeing F/A-18 and Dassault Aviation Rafale-M, under evaluation by the Navy to operate from the carriers in the interim, could be made by December-end. It is expected to be procured through the Government-to-Government route.

“We expect CCS clearance by mid-2023 and from then another 1.5-2 years for the prototype. The TEDBF is a replacement for the MiG-29K fighters in service and should be inducted with the Navy by 2031-32,” said P Thangavel, the project director for the Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS-MK-1 project in ADA, speaking at the recent DefExpo in Gujarat.

Currently high speed modelling to test the supersonic characteristics is underway with internal funds by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the project will be up for Preliminary Design Review, an important milestone, by March next year, Mr. Thangavel said.

While the development is underway, ADA has prepared an estimate and sent it to the Navy and once it comes back with comments to DRDO, it will be put up to the CCS for clearance, he added.

The TEDBF is envisaged as a twin-engine medium weight fighter with an all-up weight of 26 tonnes and wing folding, ADA officials had stated earlier.

In January 2020, DRDO had demonstrated successful arrested landing of Naval TEJAS on INS Vikramaditya and subsequently, 18 take-offs and landings were conducted in five days. The TEDBF is being taken up from the experience of the Naval TEJAS.

In 2017, the Navy had floated Request For Information (RFI) to procure 57 twin-engine carrier fighter which is now set to be downsized to around 26 including a few twin-seater trainer variants, with the TEDBF in the pipeline.

The Navy had contracted 45 MiG-29K aircraft from Russia for INS Vikramaditya, few of which have been lost in crashes and given the availability rates, there won’t be enough aircraft to operate from both the carriers.

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