Saturday, August 29, 2009

F-16E/Fs to arrive in India for evaluation on Monday

Bangalore: Three F-16 advanced fighters of US aerospace major Lockheed Martin will soar into the skies Monday for the flight evaluation trials (FET) of the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) the Indian Air Force (IAF) is seeking to replace its ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 fleet.

"We are flying in three F-16s from Dubai to Bangalore Aug 31 for the month-long field trials. The fourth-generation advanced fighters are currently with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force. They will be flown by our test pilots along with US Air Force pilots," a senior Lockheed Martin official told.

In the run-up to the trials, to be conducted in Bangalore, near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan desert and in high-altitude Leh in September, Lockheed Martin has flown-in an advance team, including a logistics group, for ground preparations.

"The F-16s, with fifth generation capabilities, will demonstrate to the IAF their strike power, speed, accuracy and its awesome 360-degree maneouvers, with its sophisticated active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar," Lockheed Martin director Michael R. Griswold said.

If Lockheed Martin bags the lucrative order, estimated to be about $10 billion at current prices for 126 aircraft, it will manufacture an Indian version, christened F-16IN Super Viper that will carry about 8,000kg of conventional weapons or nuclear warheads.

The other five aircraft in the fray for the order are Boeing's F/A-181N Super Hornet, the Dassault Rafale, the Saab Gripen, the Russian MiG-35 and the European consortium EADS Eurofighter Typhoon.

As per the global tender floated last year, the winning bidder will have to deliver 18 aircraft in fly-away condition, while the remaining 108 will be manufactured by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) under a technology transfer deal.

Though the tender is for 126 aircraft, there is an option for an additional 50 percent, or 63 more aircraft.

The F-16 trials will take place a fortnight after Boeing flew in its two Super Hornets Aug 14 and conducted trials for about 10 days from Aug 17 in Bangalore before taking-off to Jaisalmer and Leh for a series of trials in hot and cold weather conditions.

During the second round of field trials, senior IAF test pilots will join Lockheed Martin test pilots to fly the tandem-seater fighters for a firsthand feel of its capabilities and technologies, especially its electronic warfare abilities.

"Initially, the IAF pilots will co-pilot the aircraft, taking controls mid-air after familiarising themselves with the systems and the advanced navigation aids. In the subsequent trials, the IAF pilots will take command of the aircraft for evaluating its various parameters, including use of weapons," a Lockheed Martin official said but declined to be named.

The IAF has formed two teams of two test pilots each for the flight trials, which will be conducted in three stages: pilot familiarisation, field trials and weapons systems trials. The third stage will be conducted in the country of manufacture.

The technical evaluation was completed early this year after the six manufacturers responded to the IAF's Request for Proposal (RFP) in August 2007. "All the trials are on a no-cost-no-commitment basis. The IAF will buy only the aircraft that meets all the parameters in terms of capabilities and cost," a defence analyst told.


to asian defence

not to forget the aesa radars of american fighters are not allowed to switch on on a foreign land by american law cuz threy don't believe india

what about the f18e evaluations?

when it come to mig35 its zhuk ae radar already has passed the critical tests onboard flying aircraft in all modes of operation

so by january mig35 come with a functioning aesa radar matching well with apg80

but gripen and typhoon won't have aesa radar in evaluations

but frech and russkies might switch on aesa radars for evaluations this may give little glimpse of capability of each aesa

Oh yeah, F16, the most advanced single-engine fighter in the market.

Cost (Bk60: $80-100M) and the likelihood of an US arm embargo would be the few but significant limiting factors.

If simplicity and cost effectiveness are what India has in mind, than JAS39 probably has an upper hand over F16EF/"IN."

If sophistication is what India has in mind, i would suggest - Su30MKI! It's ironic but true: Flanker (~$40M)* costs far less than F16EF ($80-100M) yet has the potential to deliver FAR MORE punches than Falcon.


Just as a reference point:

F16I "Sufa" costs about $45M each. F18EF, however, is quite different. The program was run as a commercial program with UAE paid for the entire RDT&E cost. Any F16EF technology, including GE F-110-GE-132 engine, to be used by a third party would need to pay a hefty loyal sum to UAE who foot the RDT&E cost. In the end, $3B R&D +$5B actual purchase for 55 Desert Falcons makes each F16EF extraordinarily expensive.

My estimate is that F16IN would end up be roughly $70M each.

Oops, correction:

"F16EF," not "F18EF" - typo.

More about F16EF, on which F16IN would be based:

F16EF Desert Eagle is an extraordinary fighter jet, no doubt about it.

More about F16EF, on which F16IN would be based:

F16EF Desert Eagle is an extraordinary fighter jet, no doubt about it.

Some great pictures of current and future Indian Air Force:

Love the satellite sighting of 14 Su30MKIs lined up at the end of the runway - what a sight!

If all six contenders passed the operational requirements set forth for MRCA competition, cost would be the next if not the last deciding factor.

MiG35 will have the most cost-effectiveness edge (both in terms of start-up cost and sustained cost).

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