Chief of the Indian Navy, Adm. Sunil Lanba, has ruled out the deployment of the HAL Tejas, on his aircraft carriers.
According to Lanba, since India’s indigenous fighter aircraft is too heavy, his service will be acquiring a carrier-borne fighter from abroad in five to six years time.
Lanba explained to Hindustantimes.com that “As far as the carrier-based aircraft is concerned, we need it in a time line of the induction of the aircraft carrier. We have the MiG-29K, which operates from Vikramaditya and will operate from (indigenous aircraft carrier) IAC Vikrant. We were also hoping to operate the LCA (Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas) from these two aircraft carriers. Unfortunately, the LCA is not being able to meet the carrier’s required capability. That is why we need an alternative aircraft to operate from these two aircraft carriers.”
However despite the setback, Lanba said that the Navy will continue to support the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in its research on the Naval LCA.
He also added that the Indian Navy is in the process of identifying the aircraft that will meet its requirements. “If you look around the world, there are not too many options available and we need this carrier-capable aircraft sooner than later. So, I am looking at next five-six years.”
Because both the aircraft carriers feature a Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) configuration with a ski-jump, the list of aircraft that the Indian Navy could purchase is very short. Indeed only two fighters could operate from the Indian flattops: the Mikoyan MiG-29K (which would be the most logical choice since the service has already ordered 45 of these fighters) or the Lockheed-Martin F-35B Lightning II.
Nevertheless, since a group of U.S. naval engineers who were in India this February to inspect INS Vikrant highlighted many shortcomings of the aircraft carrier (such as a limited ability to launch sorties and the lack of self-defense missile system), the requirement for a new aircraft could not be so compelling.
Given these problems in fact, U.S. naval engineers concluded that INS Vikrant won’t be operational for another decade: if this analysis turns out to be true, 45 MiG-29K/UKBs to equip a relatively small aircraft carrier like INS Vikramaditya (which actually is a modified Soviet-era Kiev-class aircraft carrier) could be more than enough.
Photo credit: Indian Navy
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