Twin-Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF)

Gautam

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Eh.....?



The Indian Navy And DRDO Move On From The NLCA Mk2 To The Twin-Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF)

By Sriram Thiagarajan - November 18, 2019
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The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) controlled by the Defence Research & Development Organization has revealed to Delhi Defence Review (DDR) that it will now develop a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) for the Indian Navy (IN) instead of persisting with the development of a Mk2 variant of the LCA-Navy (NLCA) design. TEDBF is being projected to enter service with the IN in the early 2030s as a replacement for the existing Russian-built MiG-29K fighter. The program will run concurrently with ADA’s other programs such as the Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) projects and utilize developments from them. The project definition phase (PDP) for this program began in September 2019 itself. A TEDBF mockup is likely to be shown at Aero India 2021, according to ADA.

So, why was the NLCA Mk2 effort abandoned in favour of the TEDBF ?

The IN joined the LCA program in order to develop a fighter aircraft for its future aircraft carriers. As part of this effort, ADA was tasked with modifying the baseline LCA design meant for the Indian Air Force (IAF) with a view to making it suitable for naval use. Arrested landings on a carrier bring a high-speed fighter aircraft to a dead stop within a few hundred meters unlike what obtains on a traditional runway at a land-based airstrip. To handle the intense additional stresses likely to be experienced during carrier landings, the undercarriage of the IAF version had to be greatly strengthened, even though the overall airframe was perhaps not modified to the same degree. However, this decision to not substantially modify the baseline LCA airframe led to a NLCA Mk1 design where the strengthened landing gear would ‘sprawl’ under its airframe. This in turn prevented the carriage of external fuel tanks ( or indeed any ‘heavy’ weapons) on the inboard weapons stations of the NLCA Mk1’s wings. This meant that only the centerline and mid-board weapon stations could be used to carry drop tanks, thereby reducing the payload flexibility of the design.

As a result, the IN leaned on ADA to develop a follow-on to the NLCA Mk1 design that would not entail such compromises and truly meet its requirements. For this purpose, Airbus (earlier EADS group) was roped in to provide design consultancy for what became the NLCA Mk2 project. However, the NLCA Mk2, a mockup of which was displayed at Aero India 2019, also failed to enthuse the IN and the service’s thoughts turned towards developing a navalized version of the AMCA. Nevertheless, it was felt by ADA that operational experience with a naval 4th generation fighter was very much needed before developing a next generation fighter for a naval environment. After several rounds of deliberations involving the IN and ADA it was mutually decided that the latter would instead develop a fourth-generation ‘plus’ twin-engine fighter, likely powered by the GE F-414 to meet the IN’s requirements. Thus, was born the TEDBF project.

Update on NLCA Mk1 Arrested Landing Tests

Meanwhile, even as the TEDBF project goes through its initial paces, the two existing NLCA Mk1 prototypes have carried out several arrested landings at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) located in INS Hansa. These arrested landings, which are still underway, are being used to test various scenarios with more than 15 such landings taking place since mid-October 2019. The very first such ‘night’ landing was performed on November 13, 2019. As mentioned earlier, the stresses encountered by the airframe during such arrested landings is incredibly high. Remarkably, in all the tests so far, the only item to have detached has been a pilot’s visor, unlike troubles encountered in other programs. Incidentally, the NLCA Mk1 prototypes have a programmed ‘Bolter’ mode which enables automatic-takeoff in case of a missed trap during landings. In the event of a missed trap the aircraft automatically retracts its tail hook i.e. without the need for any pilot input. This feature was actually tested prior to arrested landing tests at SBTF.


In any case, landings at the SBTF account for only the first phase of trials. After all, during an actual landing on a carrier, an aircraft would experience significant headwinds (usually 10-15 knots) which are a rarity at the SBTF. On the other hand, aircraft landing at the SBTF experience 2-3 knot crosswinds which are not encountered at sea since the carrier sails into the wind. All this indicates that there is a not an insignificant difference between an arrested landing at the SBTF and one on an actual aircraft carrier operating on the high seas. Nevertheless, once the series of tests at the SBTF are complete, studies will be performed to investigate the wake-characteristics of an aircraft carrier, since any aircraft landing on it would have fly through the carrier’s own wake prior to hitting the deck. This will be followed by carrier landing tests in calm seas which are likely to take place in December 2019. Further testing will continue based on carrier availability.

Coming back to the TEDBF, it can be said that the design is not going to feature the LEVCONs seen on existing NLCA Mk1 prototypes as their use has been found to be sub-optimal. LEVCONs require large sized actuators to maintain a zero degrees position during level flight at high speeds. Besides, failure at such high speeds would result in an unmanageable pitch-up moment. Also, modelling airflow behaviour at extreme deflections was found to be troublesome. Instead, the TEDBF is likely to use vortex flaps. Indeed, the NLCA Mk2 mockup displayed at Aero India 2019 featured vortex flaps instead of LEVCONs. In case of failure, ADA says vortex flaps will remain in a safer natural position and will not require large actuators as is the case with LEVCONs. As such, some Tejas test units may be fitted with fixed vortex flaps to gather data for informing the TEDBF design.

Sriram Thiagarajan is a Senior Editor at Delhi Defence Review

© Delhi Defence Review. Reproducing this content in full without permission is prohibited.

The Indian Navy And DRDO Move On From The NLCA Mk2 To The Twin-Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) | Delhi Defence Review
 

Ashwin

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also failed to enthuse the IN and the service’s thoughts turned towards developing a navalized version of the AMCA. Nevertheless, it was felt by ADA that operational experience with a naval 4th generation fighter was very much needed before developing a next generation fighter for a naval environment. After several rounds of deliberations involving the IN and ADA it was mutually decided that the latter would instead develop a fourth-generation ‘plus’ twin-engine fighter, likely powered by the GE F-414 to meet the IN’s requirements. Thus, was born the TEDBF project.
Reasons for not going for an N-AMCA is not clear here.
  • A twin-engine naval fighter with F-414s will have all the general characteristics of AMCA mk1. Max take-off weight, payload, T/W ratio etc.
  • Basically, it will be our version of F/A-18 SH with an additional requirement of better performance from STOBAR. (Thus lighter weight)
  • Except not optimizing for radar signature reduction. A fighter envisioned for the 2030s not having basic stealth features is just a baffling perspective. Just design a version of AMCA mk1 without an internal bay with strengthened of landing gear and over-the-nose vision cockpit.

All i can think of is the fear of going to the same trap of LCA. Having to redesign a fighter to naval use from the airforce version is never optimal.
 

Ashwin

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Relevant :

Hitherto unknown, the Indian Navy has apparently been left out in the cold on the AMCA project, its requests and suggestions alarmingly ignored for over two years.

The navy first got ‘involved’ in the AMCA project in March 2013 when it formally asked the DRDO/ADA if they were planning a naval version of the program. The query sprung from the navy’s own internal activity at the time — it had started to analyse the sort of air wing it needs on the second in the series of indigenous aircraft carriers planned to be built (IAC-2).

A top Indian Navy officer speaking to Livefist but asking not to be named said, “In March 2013, a multi role Medium Combat aircraft was envisaged for the carrier. Given that IAC-2 was being planned for induction in 2030 timeframe, it was felt that early 2013 was a good time to encourage ADA to work on a Naval AMCA rather than having to repeat the mistake of LCA wherein attempts were made to navalise the Air Force variant of LCA. This never works. Didn’t work for LCA. Hasn’t worked well for MiG-29K or the Su-33 either. It hasn’t even worked well enough even for helicopters (ALH is a case in point).”

For reasons that may be many, the DRDO-ADA combine rebuffed the request, telling the navy it had no plans to develop a separate naval AMCA (NAMCA) unless the the navy committed itself financially and otherwise so it could ‘start work’. Naval Headquarters in Delhi then activated a team of aviators, from MiG-29K and Sea Harrier pilots to veteran flyers to finalise a set of ‘top level requirements’ for the proposed NAMCA. After a series of meetings with the ADA and DRDO, an official letter detailing these requirements was sent on 7 September 2015. Among other things, the Indian Navy requested for a separate team to be constituted for the development of NAMCA and sought involvement of naval representatives at all stages of the project.

“The DRDO/ADA has not yet been able to obtain approval from the government for the funding that may be necessary to carry out this feasibility study. Financial and personnel participation hasn’t even been sought yet by ADA. It hasn’t moved for over two years now,” the Indian Navy officer quoted above tells Livefist.

The situation is an alarming one. It demonstrates, in effect, that the AMCA is walking down at least one of the troubled paths trudged by the LCA Tejas. The navy wants a carrier-based version designed from the drawing board, not as a spin-off version of what is essentially a shore-based air force aircraft. Its experience with having to abandon the LCA haunts planners who, ironically, had expressed more open faith in the Light Combat Aircraft than their contemporaries in the Indian Air Force.

The navy, currently on the hunt for 57 carrier-borne fighter jets, is dismayed by what it feels is second-class treatment.

Ignored by the the DRDO-ADA on its 2015 request, the navy followed up with a more radical (well, for India) proposal — it asked at an MoD meeting whether it was not better and economical to simply start with the naval variant?

“We wanted to be cautious. We advised that ADA must have a naval variant to start with. It is, in fact, better to start with just one variant – the naval variant – since it is difficult to fund two development programs together,” says the navy officer. “The spin-off of mass reduction etc on the Air Force variant should be taken advantage of later. Case in point being the Rafale. They started with the Rafale-M. But, I don’t know who is listening!”

The navy, which is currently also grappling with an air force that is regarding the carrier-based fighter requirement with disdain, is seeing the AMCA emerge as a fresh turf war with its sister service. For a fighter program that intends to consolidate an overarching set of targets for India’s industrial aerospace complex, a pair of chagrined customers should already be clanging the alarm bells. But not yet.

The navy officer Livefist spoke to was deeply unhappy when he answered our question on this:

“I am surprised that some of them [in the IAF] do not understand that is one needs aviation capability at sea ‘here and now’. You cannot depend on shore based aircraft to provide support for either surveillance, or air defence or anti-submarine effort or even anti-shipping strike missions around the Task Force which is deployed some 700 odd nautical miles from the nearest Indian coast. The last two missions can be met partially by shore based planes when the Task Force is close to coast but the too inadequately. The first two can be met just negligibly, if at all – and that too at very close ranges from land – that’s not where a Task Force wants to be!

The navy’s top level requirements for the AMCA are graded secret. What Livefist has learnt is that the navy has diluted performance figures from the Air Force’s staff requirements to create space for development.

“This is since it is typically difficult to match land based aircraft’s performance requirements for a heavier carrier based plane (due heavier undercarriage etc),” the navy officer quoted above says. “But we have sought better over the nose visibility required for a tail-hook aircraft on approach for landing and capability to operate on both CATOBAR and STOBAR carriers (since we expect both our STOBAR carriers to be still around when the new CATOBAR, IAC-2 is envisaged to get commissioned).”

With overwhelming focus on the Make in India fighter program, the AMCA project sits on the lip of a crater. Far too many times in India’s past have intentions subdued execution and result. An indigenous fifth generation fighter deserves more concerted energies and administrative attention.
https://www.livefistdefence.com/201...as-of-indias-amca-5th-generation-fighter.html
 
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All i can think of is the fear of going to the same trap of LCA. Having to redesign a fighter to naval use from the airforce version is never optimal.

The French did it with Mirage 4000, it shouldn't take 20 years as it did for Tejas mk-1, question is when will the gov give the project green light.
 
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Gautam

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As a result, the IN leaned on ADA to develop a follow-on to the NLCA Mk1 design that would not entail such compromises and truly meet its requirements. For this purpose, Airbus (earlier EADS group) was roped in to provide design consultancy for what became the NLCA Mk2 project.
When did this happen ? Does this mean that Airbus is involved with the TEDBF too ? How much of the learning from the LCA-N trials(angled deck take off, arrested landing and the upcoming carrier landing etc) will be transferable to the new fighter ?
Rather I'm hoping it's more like KF-X.

View attachment 11418

Basically a 4th gen derivative of the AMCA.
The AMCA is supposed to have its first flight in the 2030s and the TEDBF is supposed to enter service in 2030s. How viable is this ?
 

randomradio

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When did this happen ?

A long time ago. It was a 20M euro deal.

The AMCA is supposed to have its first flight in the 2030s and the TEDBF is supposed to enter service in 2030s. How viable is this ?

Far more realistic than AMCA.

AMCA Mk1 itself is supposed to get into production before 2030. So TED BLUFF can make it before AMCA, as long as the design is complete and a prototype is ready to be made. Anything 4th gen can be completed very quickly because of the success of LCA Mk1.
 

Ankit Kumar

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NLCA MK1 can be still used as a deck based trainer and a Air Defence Fighter for the interim.

But its idiotic to go for another fighter. Naval Twin Engine Fighter simply should have been a derivative of AMCA program.

Engine, Radar, Avionics , Self Protection Suite, Air Defence Weapons, other sensors could have been very well common, while the airframe design a derivative modified for Carrier Aviation.

More or less i hope we postpone the IAC 2 along with LHD and P75I project for now. And take it up starting 2025 only.

Focus all our efforts and funds on SSN/SSBN program , fill the gaps of Minesweper, helicopter and Ocean surveillance projects.
 
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Ashwin

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When did this happen ? Does this mean that Airbus is involved with the TEDBF too ? How much of the learning from the LCA-N trials(angled deck take off, arrested landing and the upcoming carrier landing etc) will be transferable to the new fighter ?
Consultation is for Mk2. Learnings will definitely help a lot.


The AMCA is supposed to have its first flight in the 2030s
First flight of TD ~2025.

I'm guessing this project came out frustration of not including IN in the AMCA. Might get closed before getting anywhere.


NLCA MK1 can be still used as a deck based trainer and a Air Defence Fighter for the interim.
Nope, Mk1 is useless as fighter maybe for training.
 

Ankit Kumar

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Nope, Mk1 is useless as fighter maybe for training.

Training only primarily. 12-18 pieces maybe for INS Vicky and IAC 1 for now. Coz we all know Mig29K ..... and the BAE Hawks are all shore based(I wish we chose the carrier capable versions for Hawk like USN did) . Deck based training would be good... Help us refine and update our standards.

And if it can take off with 4 AAMs and a 8222 , should be handy as a ADF unit.

Availability, Reliability and Take Off capability of Mig29K ain't hidden. If it betters them, maybe use it for advanced training.
 

Deathstar

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I am still sceptical of this project. A clean slate design sents shivers due to LCA saga.
Even a non stealth version of AMCA would have sufficed imo. Both IAF and IN could jointly finance the entire FGFA programme for AMCA and Naval AMCA. This will save time and money both.
Interim solution could have been more Mig29Ks or Rafale M for IN and Su57s for IAF
Naval AMCA and IAC2 can be designed simultaneously.
What do u think @Gautam
 

randomradio

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NLCA MK1 can be still used as a deck based trainer and a Air Defence Fighter for the interim.

Will never happen. An MWF derivative is more likely, but we will be lucky to see this happening as well.

But its idiotic to go for another fighter. Naval Twin Engine Fighter simply should have been a derivative of AMCA program.

AMCA itself will take beyond 2035 to mature, never mind N-AMCA. Also, a next gen naval fighter will likely be a different aircraft than AMCA.

Neither LCA nor AMCA are suitable for deck ops. You forget that we can't even make an engine for AMCA let alone an N-AMCA.

Engine, Radar, Avionics , Self Protection Suite, Air Defence Weapons, other sensors could have been very well common, while the airframe design a derivative modified for Carrier Aviation.

I suppose there will be greater electronics and subsystems commonality with MWF, AMCA Mk1 and TEDBF.

More or less i hope we postpone the IAC 2 along with LHD and P75I project for now. And take it up starting 2025 only.

We need all three projects delivering ASAP. Construction should begin before 2025 in fact, for all three, so that we have them all before 2035.

People don't realise it yet, but cutting corners today means we will suffer even more in the future. The Americans are incapable of dealing with China on their own.
 

randomradio

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Training only primarily. 12-18 pieces maybe for INS Vicky and IAC 1 for now. Coz we all know Mig29K ..... and the BAE Hawks are all shore based(I wish we chose the carrier capable versions for Hawk like USN did) . Deck based training would be good... Help us refine and update our standards.

And if it can take off with 4 AAMs and a 8222 , should be handy as a ADF unit.

Availability, Reliability and Take Off capability of Mig29K ain't hidden. If it betters them, maybe use it for advanced training.

Mig-29K has lesser footprint than LCA Mk1, while having greater range and payload. Who in their right mind will use Mk1 with so many disadvantages on a carrier?

Can't use Mk1 for training either. IN planned it and later shelved it. They had initially planned to buy 6 Mk1s for deck based operations. The KUBs continue to be a better and safer option.

Even a non stealth version of AMCA would have sufficed imo.

Can't without an even more powerful engine than what's being planned for AMCA.
I think this one is the TEDBF
Pic from CFD analysis


View attachment 11421

@Falcon

Were you referring to this a year ago?
 

Gautam

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I am still sceptical of this project.
There are good reasons behind the skepticism.
A clean slate design sents shivers due to LCA saga.
Ab initio fixed wing fighter program with an uncertain engine, ever looming tech sanctions, the manufacturer having no prior experience in fighter design and jumping straight into 4th gen fighter design. Nothing about the LCA project was anything short of insane. And yet despite all its failings, it is still a flying machine in service today. There are plenty of fighters out there made by established manufacturers that have done worse. Let's give credit where it is due.

As for any fighter program that comes after, it will be utilising the experiences of the LCA program. If properly funded the outcomes will be better than the LCA.
Naval AMCA and IAC2 can be designed simultaneously.
What do u think @Gautam
This TEDBF news just came out. Give it some time for more clarity on where things are going. If the Navy wants a different program, they wouldn't mind paying for it. It the platform is indeed a AMCA based one it will be good news for the AMCA.
I think this one is the TEDBF
Pic from CFD analysis


View attachment 11421
This is one of the various configurations of fighter design being tested during the initial phase of the AMCA program. The design work just began then. It is possible the TEDBF uses design cues from previous simulations. Why blur the image its been out there for a while ? Here is another design. Almost looks like a F-18 this one :

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