Chief of Air Staff ACM S Krishnaswamy was in Singapore for AA 2004
for just two days and the media grilled him on 25th February on the
unnecessarily large number of accidents and the age of the MiG 21s,
which were now over 35 years old in design and engine technology. The
CAS had no option but to defend the MiG 21’s accident figures with
mathematics. He quoted probability of accidents compared to civil
aviation accidents and deaths, which is an oxymoron in logical
terms, as civil and military flying cannot be compared. He stated he
was an Engineer and a test pilot and he also stated that the Bisons,
the upgraded MIG 21, had done very well against the US F-15C, in dog
fights during ‘Exercise Cope India’ at Gawlior. The F-15Cs are
also over 12 years year old.
MiG 21 pilots like Wg Cdr Harish who flew Defence Minister George
Fernandes, took part and the US Air Force said they no more encourage
dog fights or ‘flying by the seat of your pants’, except for
some trials, as all action these days was beyond visual range (BVR)
in JUDY engagements. Maybe we should learn a lesson and not push the
IAF MiG 21 rookie pilots into dog fights, as even in the Navy we had
prided good ship handling capability and in the bargain had many
accidents to show for it! This was stopped some years ago and though
some egos were hurt, IN ships now use tugs and Captains still get
the ship is more important but the CAS stated he had over 300 MiGs
and so must fly them. The Americans of course were impressed with
the SU 30s and the level of plane handling of the IAF.
just one day after CAS left Singapore the crash of Wg Cdr Khanna in
a Jaguar sortie at Pokhran near Pune, was devastating as he was a
Top Gun and some reported his weapon caused it and at the Air Show
there were over 120 IAF Officers and men to discuss this in hushed
tones and the world's aviation experts were present. It was a
little dark cloud and the IAF has to debate its accident rate,
at least of the aging MiGs. In Tehelkha the MiG Corporation issues
had come up too.
on 9th March Claude Arpi who carries the French torch in
India wrote in Pioneer that there was US pressure to delay and
scuttle the six Scorpene type 75 (with 36 SM 39 Exocets) and 125
Mirage 2000-5 ambitions of India. So the following analysis is all
the more relevant.
was also reported in media that the IAF was in hectic negotiations
with French, Russian and United States bidders to purchase 125
frontline multi-role fighter planes to
partially replace nearly 300 MiG-21 aircraft on the verge of being
phased out. French aircraft manufacturer Dassault appears to be the
current frontrunner with its offer of upgraded Mirage 2000-5
Mk2 aircraft, a formidable machine in its own right, with technology
transfer arrangements, to set up an assembly plant at HAL (Hindustan
Russians had proposed an upgraded MiG-29M1/M2 with perhaps a high
degree of commonality with IAF Sukhoi-30s in terms of weapons and
electronic systems. Of special interest, United States Aerospace
giant Lockheed Martin was offering technology transfer of its runway
bestseller F-16 Fighting Falcon.
proposed sale was projected as a medium term replacement of MiG-21s
in the IAF fleet. Lockheed Martin stressed on the technological
sophistication of its product, as only three to four squadrons of
which perhaps can replace a significant portion of the MiG-21 fleet,
as "replacement on one to one basis is not necessary".
exact version of F-16C offered was not clear, but the offer is worth
considering if it turns out to be F-16C Block 60 upgrade now
referred to as F-16E/F “Desert Falcon”, that won an export order
to United Arab Emirates for eighty machines. Significantly it
secured its order in face of tough competition by Eurofighter
Typhoon and French Rafale. F-16E/F upgrade including all-weather
precision targeting and strike capability with extended range and
enhanced air-to-air performance.
Lockheed Martin may already have informally interacted with HAL it
seems it has promised full technology transfer to India to
facilitate domestic license production, and the Indians will be able
to access certain key technologies not immediately available from
elsewhere, the most important being the Northrop Grumman AESA
(Active Electronically Scanned Arrays) capable Agile Beam Radar.
When configured with the combat-proven AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced
Medium Ranged Air-to-Air Missile) BVR (Beyond Visual Range) AAM and
AIM-9X or the Israeli Python5 NBVR/WVR (Near Beyond Visual
Range/Within Visual Range) AAM the IAF will look formidable.
AESA radar is capable of interleaving air-to-air, air-to-ground and
terrain following modes so they appear simultaneous. Details are
classified but the new AESA set has almost twice the detection range
of the APG-68(V)7 on board F-16C Block 50 and provides high
resolution SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) ground imaging. Moreover
ASEA radar, have tremendous growth potential and the capacity to
detect enemy radar transmissions at extended ranges and jam them
with "transmission bursts". F-16E/F in addition is capable
of automatic terrain following using the radar or passively using
the digital terrain system. Hosted in data transfer unit this
terrain data also provides ground collision avoidance capability and
is also used to generate moving map and threat inter-visibility.
Other sensors of F-16C Block 60 are of extremely high standard which
include IR (Infra-Red) detection kit and a formidable EW (Electronic
FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) and targeting system consists of a
turret-mounted navigation sensor on top of the nose and a targeting
sensor attached to the engine intake. Both are mid-wave focal-plane
array infrared sensors. The internal EW suite performs the
traditional RWR (Radar Warning Receiver) functions, plus ESM
(Electronic Support Measures) and electronic intelligence gathering
and provides targeting for anti-radiation missiles. The
countermeasures use digital technique generator, onboard jammers and
fibre-optic towed decoy. A large supply of chaff and flares is
carried in up to fourteen dispensers in the fuselage and pylons.
also has uprated General Electric F110-132 turbofan engines with
32,500lb of thrust while Pratt & Whitney is offering an uprated
F100. The engines as usual with all American types are top class in
performance and reliability, a critical requirement for
single-engine fighters. A modern digital FCS (Flight Control System)
written in C++ utilises Motorola Power PC microchips.
a part of the package the IAF could well receive Raytheon developed
AIM-9X Sidewinder that arrived with a revolutionary 'staring focal
plane array technology', that has inherently better IRCCM (Infra-Red
Counter Counter Measures) and is readily programmable for new IRCCM
techniques in future. This particular staring focal plane array
technology provides greater ability to reject flares and other
countermeasures. As stated above the nearest non-Russian competitor
of this missile is the Israeli Python 5 that has an improved seeker,
motor, and better immunity to countermeasures than its predecessor
the Python 4.
“strong” technical feature is the carriage of “aerodynamic”
aluminum CFT (Conformal Fuel Tanks) that “blend” nicely with the
upper fuselage to provide long-range and endurance while the
aerodynamic performance remains unaffected. The aircraft remains
free to carry its 9g flight.
a technological standpoint the American offer is worth considering.
But at the same time it will be foolish to ignore the whimsical
attitude of the United States administration that frequently puts
the dependent nations in a fix especially in terms of foreign and
sharp contrast both the Russians and French are reputed for their
wholehearted support to India during the times of crisis, the latest
being during Pokhran 2 in 1998. It is reasonable to assume that both
political and technological considerations will play a part during
selection of the fighter type.
Lockheed-Martin has its own set of advantages. Indo-United States
cooperation after “9/11” is at an all time high with all
branches of the Armed Forces of both the nations striving hard to
attain inter-operability and joint-cooperation on a grand scale.
Under such a backdrop a common inventory of F-16s is highly
desirable for both the nations. Moreover it was stated that IAF had
immediate an requirement for some 125 “light-weight” fighters, a
vital need that may be best fulfilled by the American Aerospace
production machinery in aspects that range from timely production
through delivery, technological transfer, to high quality
after-sales service all within a time-schedule.
French Mirage 2000-5 Mk2 and Russian MiG-29M1/M2 will prove to be
strong competitors, but under present geo-political circumstances
Lockheed-Martin F-16s may turn out to be the “dark horse”. More
than 4,000 F-16A/B/C/Ds serve 19 nations and the assembly line is
slated to remain busy at least until 2009. Still Lockheed Martin is
pushing hard to “gather” an order of another 500 “units” of
these all-time classic F-16 design, lovingly referred to by American
fighter pilots as the “Viper”.