China has constructed 10 Naval bases in Indian Ocean. They will not just have a huge military presence in Indian Ocean, but an entire carrier battle group explicitly for the Indian Ocean. India has started to catch up to the challenge both at home and abroad by making military and diplomatic relations nations threatened by China's bullying in South China Sea as well as starting Naval base in Andaman and Nicobar and signing the LEMOA pact with US by which we can refuel and resupply our ships at Diego Garcia, situated south of Maldives. India has deep rooted cultural influence over all the Island nations in Indian Ocean, and has forayed into developing similar relations with African and Gulf nations.
But strategic purposes do need tactical tools to be successful and in this big chess board called Indian Ocean we have to place our pawns, knights, rooks, bishops and queen very tactfully so as to keep the enemy and check. India already operates INS Vikramaditya, a heavily upgraded ex Soviet carrier with MiG-29K onboard. As of today India not just have more experience in handling an aircraft carrier but India's MiG-29K is superior to China's Shenyang J-16 flying shark. The currently under construction INS Vikrant would offer just a little bit more counter offensive capability compared to Vikramaditya and would be stationed as such that it protects India's west coast while the east coast would be secured by the presence of the CBG of Vikramaditya.
Indian Navy currently operates 45 MiG-29K/KUB maritime fighters out of which 26 operate onboard INS Vikramaditya. The rest operate performing the role of shore based defence and training. The INS Vikrant which is currently under construction would likely feature a mix of MiG-29K and HAL Naval LCA mk2. This current requirement of 57 new carrier based fighter largely focuses on CATOBAR ( Catapult Assisted Take Off but Arrested Landing) capability. It makes some winds clear that future Vikrant class aircraft carrier rumoured to be named INS Vishal would have a catapult and would be a flat top carrier. It would most likely feature Electromagnetic Catapult. And would feature more than 50 fixed wing fighter aircraft. The Navy wants that the next fighter to embark upon IAC-2 ( INS Vishal ) must match or exceed the speed, range, endurance of MiG-29K and dominate the future threats from Chinese upgraded J-16 variants. This is why Navy was skeptical about HAL Naval LCA.
After the RFP floated by Indian Navy four offerers responded, The Swedish Maritime Gripen, Russia's MiG-29K, French Dassault Rafale M F3R (modified) and US’ Boeing F/A-18 Block lll Super Hornet. This was for Multirole Carrier Borne Fighter (MRCBF) project to induct 57 new carrier borne fighters. Now the news is that Navy is giving more emphasis on the two specific requirements from France and US as these two offers pack a proper punch sought by Navy. The navy is in the process of fine tuning operational staff requirements before freezing naval air staff requirements (NASR).
It must be noted that nations develop fighter aircrafts according to the tactical and strategic needs of their own forces, which may not match or suite the needs of other nations. This doesn't mean a certain fighter failing in front of other is weak altogether. We would compare the Rafale M F3R and Block lll Super Hornet based on Indian Navy's needs. The Indian Navy in past has used aircraft carriers in support of land attack as well staging a Naval Blockade. A carrier vs carrier battle haven't occurred since world war 2. Indian Navy wants easy access to the Afro-Asian regions so s to secure relations because of the huge Indian population living in these nations as well as secure the Islands. It is unlikely that India would use it's aircraft carriers for a long distance strike role sending it in South China Sea to counter China, but may go there for wargames.
Another thing which we need to understand before we start comparison that carrier borne fighters are at a decisive advantage in comparison their land based brothers. The land based fighters have to ferry themselves to the mission area far away from airbase and their performance would be degraded after such a lengthy flight. But because of having a mobile launch platform carrier commanders can place themselves directly into the theatre and attack the target in least time with least compromise with performance.
The comparison between Boeing F/A-18 Block lll Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale M F3R would consider :
1 Low Observability.
2 Electronic Warfare and Targeting Systems.
3 Kinematic performance.
4 Fighter Specific Weapons.
5 Pilot Comfort.
6 Operating and per unit costs.
Capabilities of fighters would be awarded certain points out of 5 based on their effectiveness.
The aircraft scoring maximum out of possible 30 points would be preferable choice.
Low Observability :
Advanced Super Hornet - 3 / 5
The Advanced Super Hornet is believed to have measures that reduces 50% of the frontal radar cross section than the F /A 18 Super Hornet. There aren't any indications of the nose being faceted for deflecting radio waves. The conformal fuel tanks are shaped as such that they does not increase the frontal radar cross section. There are next generation jammers that jam enemy radar waves mostly those which would possibly expose engine fan blades to enemy radars. There is a stealth optimised external weapons pod. Weapons are carried inside this pod and hence they turn out to be safer for mission needing stealth capability.
There is no indication but it is highly likely that the surface must be painted with Radar Absorbing Paints. This would be a major boost to stealth feature. The cockpit canopy also looks like being treated with special tint just the same as F 35. Because of new Next Generation Jammer the spoofing and Deceiving of enemy radars would add on to the decreased RCS against both air to air and air to ground radar. But this jammer needs to be carried on separate dedicated jamming support aircraft rather than internally which restricts the amount of total weapons being taken to a mission.
Rafale M - 4 / 5
Although not a full-aspect stealth aircraft, the cost of which was viewed as unacceptably excessive, the Rafale was designed for a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) and infrared signature . In order to reduce the RCS, changes from the initial technology demonstrator include a reduction in the size of the tail-fin, fuselage reshaping, repositioning of the engine air inlets underneath the aircraft's wing, and the extensive use of composite materials and serrated patterns for the construction of the trailing edges of the wings and canards. 70% of the Rafale's surface area is composite. The minimal RCS of Rafale, according to Dassault engineer (1/10~1/20 of Mirage-2000's frontal RCS), should be 0.05 to 0.1 m2 class.
Rafale makes extensive use of radar-absorbent material (RAM) in the form of paints and other materials. RAM forms a saw-toothed pattern on the wing and canard trailing edges, for instance. The aircraft is designed to, so that its untreated radar signature is concentrated in a few strong "spikes," which are then suppressed by the selective use of RAM. 75% of Rafale surface structure and 30% of its mass are made of composites. Besides, the high amount of composites and RAM materials, ducted air intakes, Rafale also has a sawtooth design feature all over the airframe and even in the air intakes.
To achieve Stealth Dassault combine four factors:
• RCS reduction of the most reflective parts of the structure
• Development of passive detections
• EW suite capable of jamming and decoying
• Terrain following system
Electronic Warfare and Targeting Systems :
Advanced Super Hornet - 4 / 5
~ AN / APG 79 AESA radar
With its active electronic beam scanning — which allows the radar beam to be steered at nearly the speed of light — the APG-79 optimizes situational awareness and provides superior air-to-air and air-to-surface capability. The agile beam enables the multimode radar to interleave in near-real time, so that pilot and crew can use both modes simultaneously. It has a range of some 70km against 1m² targets. With its open systems architecture and compact, commercial-off-the-shelf parts, it delivers dramatically increased capability in a smaller, lighter package. The array is composed of numerous solid-state transmit and receive modules to virtually eliminate mechanical breakdown. Other system components include an advanced receiver/exciter, ruggedized COTS processor, and power supplies.
~ Next Generation Jammer
The Next-Generation Jammer consists of two 15-foot long PODs beneath the EA-18G Growler aircraft designed to emit radar-jamming electronic signals; one jammer goes on each side of the aircraft. Radar technology sends an electromagnetic ping forward, bouncing it off objects before analyzing the return signal to determine a target's location, size, shape and speed...etc. However, if the electromagnetic signal is interfered with, thwarted or "jammed" in some way, the system is then unable to detect the objects, or target, in the same way.
It is able to jam multiple frequencies at a same time. The technology is designed to block, jam, thwart or “blind” enemy radar systems such as ground-based integrated air defenses – so as to allow attack aircraft to enter a target area, conduct strikes and then safely exit. It is slated to become operational by 2021.
~Internal Infrared Search & Track
It is capable of long-range infrared scan and detection of airborne threats, as it works on passive detection and ranging. It has a large field of regard and being passive makes it is immune to electronic deception. The programmable scan modes relives much of the pilot's workload. Low false-alarm rate is the cherry on cake. The automatic target detection algorithms are very helpful. Even if the picture obtained isn't clear.
Rafale M - 4 / 5
~ RBE2-AA / AESA – “Active Electronically Scanned Array” radar.
The RBE2-AA radar system is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system derived from the Rafale’s RBE2 radar. It replaces the mechanically steered array antenna by electronically steering exerted by up to several thousand of transmit-receive modules which enable maximum performance and versatility as well as enhanced reliability. The radar is using about 1000 GaAs T/R modules and is reported to deliver a greater detection range of 200 km, improved reliability and reduced maintenance demands over the preceding radar. Active electronic scanning makes it possible to switch radar modes quickly, thereby enabling operational functions to run simultaneously.
The cherry on the cake is it's terrain following capability by which it flies very near to surface which enables Rafale to fly under radar very easily compared to other radars.
~ Front Sector Optronics – FSO
Front Sector Optronics (FSO) provides a tele-lens picture of the target. It allows target tracking, through IR (Infra-red search and track) and visual sensors: air targets at ranges up to 100 kilometers, surface or sea targets at up to 6 kilometers. The covert approach capability of the FSO is especially valuable in air policing and intercepts, where the TV picture of the target provides early visual identification and detection of suspect manoeuvres. The IR Search and Track channel uses sophisticated processing algorithms for the automatic detection and tracking of airborne threats and targets on the ground.
~ SPECTRA – internal Electronic Warfare suite.
SPECTRA -Self-Protection Equipment to Counter Threats for Rafale Aircraft. Jointly developed by THALES and MBDA, the SPECTRA internal “Electronic Warfare” (EW) system is the cornerstone of the RAFALE’s outstanding survivability against the latest airborne and ground threats. SPECTRA is divided into different modules and sensors strategically positioned throughout the airframe to provide all-round coverage.
Using sophisticated techniques, such as interferometry for high precision DOA and passive ranging, digital frequency memory for signal coherency and active phased-array transmitters for maximum effectiveness and covertness, the highly advanced multi-sensors and artificial intelligence data fusion capabilities of SPECTRA provide the Rafale aircraft with the best chance to survive in harsh and lethal environments. The Rafale combat aircraft and the SPECTRA system are fully operational onboard the French Navy's Rafale.
Advanced Super Hornet - 3 / 5
Because of the two conformal fuel tanks the range of Advanced Super Hornet has increased 130 miles making total range more than 700nm. The range differs with difference in what payload is carried or external fuel tanks are carried or not, also on the altitude and speed chosen by the pilot.
Combat radius specification:
Interdiction with four 1,000 lb bombs, two Sidewinders and two 1,818 liter (480 U.S. gallon: 400 Imp gallon) external tanks, navigation FLIR and targeting FLIR: Forward Looking Infra-Red hi-lo-lo-hi = 390 nm / 627 km. With CFTs = 748 km.
In hi-hi-hi profile with two AIM-9, four Mk.83 bombs, three tanks, two sensor pods = 1,230 km.
Fighter escort with two Sidewinders and two AMRAAMs = 410 nm / 660 km. With CFTs = 778 km.
Combat endurance: maritime air superiority, six AAMs,
three 1,818 liter external tanks. = 150 nm / 240 km. With CFTs = 283 km.
Flight Performance of F/A-18 E ( would minimally differ for Advanced Super Hornet )
Max Speed at Service Ceiling : Mach 1.6
At Low flying : Mach 1.0
Minimum Flying Speed : 125 ~ 135 knots.
Carrier Landing Approach Speed : 142 knots.
Service Ceiling : 15,240m.
G Limits : +7.6G / -3.0G
Thrust to Weight Ratio ( For air to air load at sea level ) : 1.05 ~ 1.08 with afterburners, 0.67 ~ 0.69 without afterburners.
Rafale M - 4 / 5
The Rafale M F3R is the latest version to be inducted in 2018 in French services, it does not come with conformal fuel tanks so the range increment based on internal fuel won't be significant. Rafale carries less fuel internally compared to Advanced Super Hornet, but could carry 3 external fuel tanks without losing much of it's kinematics. The M F3R would be come up with Meteor missiles.
Combat Radius Specifications:
With three tanks, four MICA AAMs, and twelve 1,000 Ib bombs = 1,100 km.
With three tanks, four MICA AAMs, and four 500 Ib GBU-12 LGBs = 1,480 km.
Combat Air Patrol : More than 2 hours Rafale M with six AAMs and three 1,250L tanks = 185 km away from the carrier.
With three tanks, four MICA AAMs and four Meteor AAMs = 1,155 km.
Rafale M flight performance
Max Speed at service ceiling : Mach 1.8
At low flying : 750 knots
Minimum Flying Speed : 100 ~ 115 knots.
Carrier Landing Approach Speed : 120 knots.
Service ceiling : 18,400m
Climb Rate at Sea level : 305 m/sec.
G Limits : +9.0G / - 3.2G
Thrust to Weight Ratio ( for air to air load at sea level ) : 1.10 ~ 1.15 with afterburners , 0.73 to 0.77 without afterburners.
Fighter Specific Weapons
The Advanced Super Hornet comes up with AIM-120D as standard air to air missile. JDAMs and SDBs for air to ground missions. Here having SDBs would be considered a significant advantage because a huge number of precision bombs could be carried. Plus new missiles like AGM-158 JASSM and LRASM are the most advanced missiles in their category providing guaranteed precision strike capability to Advanced Super Hornet. But a disadvantage here is less amount of available hard points for carrying significant number of weapons.
On the other hand Rafale M carries MBDA MICA and MBDA Meteor world's best BVRAAM. For strike missions a hugely successful MBDA Storm Shadow / SCALP-EG cruise missile and AM-39 Exocet for Anti-Ship roles. Because of customisation options available the air launched versions of BrahMos and BrahMos NG can be flown away on Rafale M. Plus Rafale M comes with 13 hardpoints (14 on air force version) out of which even if 3 would be dedicated for fuel tanks a great mix of air to air and air to ground load can be carried.
For this category Advanced Super Hornet gets - 3 / 5
Rafale M gets - 4 / 5.
The Advanced Super Hornet comes with next generation cockpit featuring a single screen touch input display and highly advanced level of sensor integration takes pilot comfort straight to the level of a fifth generation fighter. It has a centre joystick HOTAS control. Now HAL has a JV with Elbit whom are making next generation cockpit for India's AMCA fighter. Besides Boeing has showed assertiveness towards supporting India's AMCA program.Having lower G Limits than a conventional high agility fighter and superior slow speed maneuverability adds to pilot comfort.
Rafale’s net centric warfare capabilities and sensor integrated data shown on head level display , the PCWRITE for managing this totally revolutionise the way this omnirole fighter manages flight and combat. The impressive display system do work but the integration of sensors is of the level of 4++ generation fighter. For the sake of comfort the side stick controls do a thing. It's terrain following radar makes low level flight Very very comfortable, just control the throttle and be realised about losing altitude or hitting the ground.
Both fighters get equal score for this category as both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Advanced Super Hornet - 4 / 5
Rafale M - 4 / 5
Operating and per unit costs.
The operating costs vary depending upon availability of spare parts , maintenance procedures applied and intended availability of the fighters onboard the Aircraft Carrier. The stated operating costs for F/A-18 E/F is around USD 10,000 per hour but these figures would vary for the Block lll Super Hornet because it's maintenance involves radar absorbing paints, it's external weapon pods and reduced downtime because of an entirely new maintenance management system. On flightglobal website the quoted maintenance costs are USD 17000. The Quoted per unit cost for Block lll Super Hornet is USD 75 million as of 2017. But these figures are quoted by company and involves little bit advertisement considerations too. So the real price would be surely more. Boeing won't like to lose an opportunity here in India.
There aren't any reliable accurate data about current operating costs , only the data that during operations in Mali in 2012 the operating costs of Rafale M were USD 19,000. Rafale M F3R also have new maintenance simulators to train the crew and computerised maintenance system eases things down. This increases operating costs after 2018 but would be worth the price. The same F3R standard Rafale's modified to fit in Indians requirements costed 7.8 billion Euros for 36 units. That is 216.6 million Euros. The French know that Rafale M would then me a more likely choice so they would use this opportunity and open up a big mouth next time. By the way 216.6 million Euros as of today means 1648.8 crore Rupees that is per piece cost.
Here surprisingly the Hornet is more horny. I would give more more to it than Rafale M. But wait, It came to attention in 2017 that the availability rate on Super Hornets on US carriers is worryingly low. As high as 60% of Navy and Marines planes were grounded. This cuts the advantage Advanced Super Hornet offers. On the other hand Rafale has really impressive uptime. Since the air force's Rafale deal involves transfer of technology, most spare parts would be manufactured in India only.
Both Advanced Super Hornet and Rafale M tie up here and get - 3 / 5.
Total Score -
Advanced Super Hornet
1 Low Observability - 3 / 5
2 Electronic Warfare - 4 / 5
3 Kinematic Performance - 3 / 5
4 Fighter Specific Weapons - 3 / 5
5 Pilot Comfort - 4 / 5
6 Operating and per unit costs - 3 / 5
1 Low Observability - 4 / 5
2 Electronic Warfare - 4 / 5
3 Kinematic Performance - 4 / 5
4 Fighter Specific Weapons - 4 / 5
5 Pilot Comfort - 4 / 5
6 Operating and per unit costs - 3 / 5
Advanced Super Hornet = 20 / 30
Rafale M = 23 / 30
So on overall aspects Dassault Rafale M F3R has a slight edge over Boeing F/ A-18 Block lll Super Hornet.
Remember that does not mean Rafale M is better in combat that Block lll Super Hornet.
There are still some questions that must be considered even though we have completed our comparison.
What happens to MiG-29K ?
= MiG 29K is a heavily upgraded fighter and tailored to Indian requirements, it is also capable of taking off from carrier deck with full combat load which makes it more formidable at sea than China's J-16 shark.
But MiG-29K does not offer any significant further upgrade prospects, in terms of low observability and maintenance costs it's performance isn't good. So Navy decided to seek an entirely new fighter for it's flat top carriers.
Why not go for a Navalised Gripen ?
It doesn't matter how good a fighter plane is in looks or how amazingly in the animated simulation it beats Sukhoi Su-35. Swedes’ offer isn't readily available now. We don't have time for experimentation , China won't hold up there plans. For the sake of time we need fighters that are readily available and have proven themselves in combat.
What happened to LCA Navy Mk2 ?
= During February last year the media dropped a bomb by falsely reporting that Tejas’s Navy version has been rejected. First thing is Naval variant will have it's down name not Tejas. And second thing is that Navy never said they would induct NLCA mk1, they knew since the beginning that NLCA mk1 won't be able to take off with full combat load. And now popular Defence website Livefist reported that even Naval LCA mk2 has been delinked from the flat top carrier IAC-2 INS Vishal. It would go up with Navalised AMCA only. But still Naval LCA mk2 isn't dead. HAL would continue with it and Naval LCA would serve on INS Vikrant. While N-LCA mk1 would serve as a carrier testbed for validating a proof of concept of an indigenous naval fighter.
Beyond Visual Range combat may not be a new phenomenon but seeing the modern doctrines of air to air combat , it can be considered to be the most effective tactic for achieving a kill in an air to air duel. Since the basic tactic of seeing the enemy and killing the enemy by our own self being out of enemy's reach is what the latest trend stimulates us to follow, nations across the world intending to achieve self sufficiency in weapon development are pursuing the development of missiles that are capable of hitting the target which is even away from the line of sight of naked eyes.
The era of Beyond Visual Range combat began with introduction of Sparrow missiles of the USAF. These missiles were simply semi active guided, where radar of the fighter would 'paint’ the target with high power radio waves which when reflected from enemy fighter would be used as 'feed’ for the seeker of the missile. To achieve this, radars would need to achieve a 'lock-on’ on the enemy fighter. As a counter tactic against a lock on by the enemy a defending fighter would then try to out maneuver the missile by flying close to ground through valleys and mountains to break lock-on. With passage of time newer missiles having 'infrared guidance’ came into existence which would home-in on reflected radiation coming from heated parts of a target aircraft, the most significantly heated part was the exhausts of jet engine. These kind of missiles relieved the launcher aircraft from following the missile, because earlier for missiles using radar guidance it was needed that target should be constantly painted in an order to guided the air to air missile. Now with heat seeking missiles available one can just shoot and scoot. But heat seeking missile's drawbacks came into foray when flare decoys were introduced. The flare decoys were heated balls of fire released by the defending aircraft in an order to divert the attention of heat seeking missiles to the flare and hence get saved. This problem could be addressed only when if we have a radar guided missile which does not need constant guidance from the aircraft which is firing it.
Fire and forget
To overcome the drawbacks stated above an entirely new series of missiles with active seekers came into existence. These new “fire and forget” kind of missiles were able to seek the target on their own. They were equipped with terminal active seeker.This relieved the launch platform of the need to illuminate the target until impact putting it at risk. This was also the first time, multiple enemy aircrafts could be targeted at one same time. The F-14 Tomcat became a horror amongst it's adversaries all because of this. Now taking this to a new evolution modern BVR missiles like R-77 and AIM-120 AMRAAM came into existence. These missiles instead used an inertial navigation system (INS) combined with initial target information from the launching aircraft and updates from a one or two-way data link in order to launch beyond visual range, and then switch to a terminal homing mode, typically active radar guidance. These types of missiles have the advantage of not requiring the launching aircraft to illuminate the target with radar energy for the entire flight of the missile, and in fact do not require a radar lock to launch at all, only target tracking information. Having two way data links means the target information can also be provided by another aircraft or an AWACS.
Astra is an active radar homing beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM)developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India. With the development of Astra India have developed such sleek missiles capable of detecting, tracking and destroying highly-agile hostile supersonic fighters packed with ``counter-measures'' at long ranges.The highly agile, accurate and reliable missile features high "single-shot kill probability" (SSKP) and is capable of operating under all weather conditions. Length of the weapon system is 3.8m, while its diameter is 178mm, and an overall launch weight is 154kg. Its low all-up weight provides high launch range capability and the system's airborne launcher can be used with different fighter aircraft.
Development of Astra missile
In the late 60s India realised that if they have to defend their nation against a heavy aggression of hostile and expansionist neighbours they would need to have a formidable indigenous defence technology that can be mass produced within the nation independently. The simplest way of doing so was going forward with an integrated program for development of a wide range of tactical and strategic missiles. Hence Integrated Guided Missile Development Program was launched under the leadership of Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Except Nag missile anything that came from this program was a world beating success that any Indian would be proud of. One such success is Astra missile. DRDO carried out mission analysis, system design, simulation and post-flight analysis of the weapon system. The Mk-I variant of the Astra missile was first tested in May 2003.
The Astra Missile development like any usual DRDO program faced multiple challenges primarily because of sanctions against India after nuclear tests. Moreover Indian Air Force came under fire from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for the ‘not so worthy’ purchase of few AAMs, which did not home in on targets during evaluations or failed ground tests because they were ageing much before their shelf lives. No doubt, the failed missile test has affected the “operational preparedness” of the IAF. There are too many conflicting requirements for an air-to-air missile such as stability and safe release coupled with high agility during engagement against the target aircraft. Astra project is a tech-treat considering the miniaturization of the systems, including on-board computer, data links for transmitter/receiver and rotary electro-mechanical actuators. A smokeless, non-metalized high-specific impulse propellant was developed for the rocket motor.
All this development involved over 50 private Indian companies partnering with DRDO. Captive flight trials (a total of eight) have been conducted on the aircraft in 2010-11 for establishing the structural integrity of the aircraft with the missiles for the complete flight envelope. After which successive firing trial the latest one conducted in sep 2017 were termed a success.
The warhead is 177mm in diameter and 288mm in length. It contains 2050 cuboids each of dimensions 6x8x4.5mm. The total weight of warhead is 15kg. During tests this warhead cuboid sub-projectiles moved away at 20m distance from core housing and penetrated through 8mm MS plate. Total 4.8kgs of explosives used. The explosive used is HMX called High Melting Explosive sometimes also Her Majesty's Explosive. IUPAC name
The Astra contains a high explosive pre-fragmented warhead which has a radio proximity fuse. This type of warhead design may differ from country to country but have one same principle behind them. A set of small sub projectiles is packed around a big explosive device. As the warhead nears the target, the explosive blows out the sub-projectiles sharply penetrating into target aircraft’s body. This damages the streamline body, control surfaces and engine parts also which are highly critical for continued stable flight. Thus effectively destabilising the aircraft and making it fall down.
The radio proximity fuse here is used to trigger the explosive device. Radio proximity fuze is a unit combining a miniature radio transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter begins emitting radio waves, which are reflected by the target and are picked up by the receiver in the fuze. The reflected signals differ from those radiated in frequency and amplitude, and, as a result, an error signal is produced. When the distance between projectile and target becomes sufficiently short, the error signal exceeds the triggering threshold of the detonator mechanism; a current is generated through the electric detonator, and the projectile explodes.
This RPF used in Astra weighs approximately 2.5kg and has a detection range of up to 30m, a detonation range of 20m and a missile target velocity between 100m/s and 1,600m/s.
Astra is a single stage solid propulsion fuel based missile. It uses HTPB as fuel. HTBP is a very interesting fuel.HTPB is a mixture rather than a pure compound. It binds the oxidizing agent and other ingredients into a solid but elastic mass. The cured polyurethane acts as a fuel in such mixtures. It is used by ISRO’s PSLV and also Japanese SLV called M5. JAXA describes the propellant as "HTPB/AP/Al=12/68/20", which means, proportioned by mass, HTPB plus curative 12% (binder and fuel), ammonium perchlorate 68% (oxidizer), and aluminium powder 20% (fuel).
HTPB is a non-metalized high-specific impulse propellant developed for the rocket motor. This all makes Astra a smokeless missile. The missile's maximum speed is Mach 4.5+ and can attain maximum altitude of 20 km. The missile can handle 40 g turns near sea level while attacking a maneuvering target.
As we know Astra uses a terminal active radar seeker, let's see the philosophy behind it. Other seekers are only receivers, but the one used in Astra is a transceiver a transistor cum receiver, it is basically a mini radar itself radars can be fooled and can be deceived , but the more a radar is closer to the target the lesser are the chances of fooling it. Since terminal guidance stage goes active when it is 'enough near’ the target the question weather the terminal active seeker be spoofed, jammed or decoyed is a big question. To counter the spoofing and jamming their is an effective technique, which is passive radiation homing. Spoofing the active seeker means using the radio waves coming from it and showing a false target, Jamming means shooting heavy pulses at an antenna in an order to overload and burn it from inside.
Here in both spoofing and jamming the enemy would be giving radio waves and the technique of passive radiation homing uses these same waves as 'feed’ and homes in on a target. During tests in March 2016 conducted near Pune, Astra Missile was tested, it was sought to be jammed to see how it performs in such a scenario at the time of war when the enemy tries to jam its operation. The ECCM (electronic counter-countermeasure) features of the missile to overcome any jamming were evaluated. “The trials were vigorous. But the state-of-the-art missile did very well,” said a source that reported this event.
Astra used 9B-1103M seeker which is used in R-77 missile variants. It is a multi-function doppler-monopulse active radar seeker. The seeker features two modes of operation, over short distances, the missile will launch in an active "fire-and-forget" mode. Over longer distances the missile is controlled by an inertial guidance autopilot with occasional encoded data link updates from the launch aircraft's radar on changes in spatial position or G of the target. As the missile comes within 20 km (12 mi) of its target, the missile switches to its active radar mode. The host radar system maintains computed target information in case the target breaks the missile's lock-on. Later on DRDO’s RCI developed an indigenous seeker it is a Ku band seeker which is manufactured by VEM technologies. During tests this new seeker performed very well and hit the PTA Lakshya. DRDO has now mated the Astra missile with indigenous KU-band Active radar seeker which is a miniaturised version of the seeker which DRDO developed some time ago for PAD.
Range of a BVRAAM
The range of BVRAAMs given in the brochures don't tell the whole truth about them. Actually range of any BVRAAM isn't one single fixed value. The range is different at different altitudes of the launching aircraft. It increases with increase in altitude as the air at upper atmosphere is thin and offers least resistance in the form of drag. Their is an exponential relation here between launch altitude and range of a BVRAAM. So the range of any BVRAAM stated in the brochure is range at a standard service ceiling of a particular fighter aircraft.
Now the success of any BVRAAM depends on it's kinematics, is an important factor universally ignored by western military enthusiasts / analysts (except those who designed F-22 Raptor). The impact of the launch aircraft's kinematics at the point of missile launch. A supersonic Su-35 sitting at Mach 1.5 and 45,000 ft will add of the order of 30 percent more range to an R-27 or R-77 missile. High speed of the launch platform adds-on to the speed and range of the missile fired by it. This isn't something controversial, it is plain basic newtonian physics taught in school. The fighters which have lower speed during launch of missile, or which have lower kinematic performance at all do not enjoy this advantage of add-on increased range. So a missile fired by low performance fighter is dependent wholly upon whatever fuel it has got and on the mercy of correctness of it's mid-course guidance algorithms who should direct the missile towards its target without wasting time and energy.
The Astra is designed to be capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes allowing for engagement of both short-range targets (up to 20 km) and long-range targets (up to 80 km).It uses smokeless propulsion system to evade enemy detection and has the capacity to engage in multi-target scenario. Astra can reach up to 110 km when fired from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when launched from an altitude of 8 km and 21 km when fired from sea level.
Astra is believed to have a “No Escape Zone” of 30kms at ideal conditions. Based on seeker technology and missile kinematics the no escape zone is adjudged. This zone is defined as a conical shape with the tip at the missile launch. The cone's length and width are determined by the missile and seeker performance. No Escape Zone isn't practically an area where hit is guaranteed, it's just that when enemy is in your NEZ he/she cannot outrun the missile, but may outmaneuver it. Astra also have a high offbore-sight capability of +-45° by which it can shoot down enemy at a wider level.
Indian BVR combat tactics.
Earlier MiG-21 was the poster boy of Indian Airforce and Indians surrounded their tactics based on what MiG-21 can do the best. We see the developed nations have got strategies and they design their weapons according to these strategies, but developing countries tweak and adjust their strategies based on whatever weapons they manage to receive from developed nations. Although late but Indians decided to make their own strategies and tweak the foreign weapons suiting that. That's why the baseline Su-30mk was modified to MKI.
Induction of MKI brought new dominance for the IAF. Although MiG-29’s induction was the first time in history that IAF clearly knew that they have got a weapon superior than anyone in region. Having gained BVR capability IAF practiced real hard initially during an exercise which was conducted back in time, where all missiles fired missed their targets at high ranges. Those are Russian made R-77 missiles which both India and China operate in heavy numbers but not Russia itself. Unlike this Pakistan have got AIM-120s in the form of BVR and SD-10s as latest. Rising up to the reality IAF went major change in its BVR tactics that were akin to the actual capabilities of its missiles. This is why IAF who have so much loved foreign material is highly admanant of getting an indigenous Astra missile.
Now the tactics differ at different levels for a heavy class fighter like Su-30MKI, IAF choses to fire two missiles in one volley at a time per aircraft. This overwhelmes a usual target that IAF may potentially face. In fact there is a weapon select mode in MKI that makes it fire two missiles but this is only about R-77. While using R-27 it's just one missile in one volley because R-27 is relatively more reliable this is used in a later stage of BVR combat only if the first volley of R-77s have failed because the variants of R-27 used by IAF are semi active and at longer ranges using semi active radar seeking guidance is giving away your position.
If you see the Su-30MKI in air superiority configuration with maximum air to air loadout, it carries some 8 to 12 missiles in total. IAF believes that 'more the number of missiles in one volley more would be the kill probability’ Since if you fire just one missile the enemy have a number of countermeasures to get away and respond. But for a lower tier of fighters like MiG-29 the Navy's MiG-29k, Dassault Mirage 2000 or the latest HAL Tejas IAF puts it's bet on single shot kill probability being so high that a single missile is enough. Both Astra and the currently unnamed SFDR missiles are optimised for future scenarios and would be armed onto Indian 5th generation fighters. This is why IAF has French and Israeli AAMs in their arsenal. If there's any nation that has fired the most number of AAMs in actual combat that is Israel, they have huge experience in this. This is why Python 5 and Derby are some new favorites of IAF and recently tested and integrated with HAL Tejas.
Astra Mark 2
Astra mk2 which will begin testing in the upcoming years, experience with mk1 will come in handy and will boost in meeting the timeline of mk2. Astra mk2 will be using dual pulse rocket motor(cheap alternative of ramjet) which will boost it range to 125km if launched from 12km altitude and will gradually increase the NEZ (no escape zone) of the missile. Astra will be the mainstay of Indian airforce and Navy A2A missile arsenal in the future. Currently about 50 Astra missiles have entered in the initial production will be handed over to the airforce for some more testings, and will be inducted after the all the tests are done and bugs are sorted out. It is also said that mk2 may feature 3D thrust vectoring capability as it won't have those mid body control surfaces.
The main purpose of Astra is to replace the R77 from IAF. Being a fifth generation missile , it would provide true beyond visual range capability with greater strategic depth for the Indian Air Force. Being smoke free and having two way data link it provides very less chances to enemy to be alert about it.
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BAE Systems' Taranis unmanned combat air system demonstrator is designed to defeat new counter-stealth radars, and may use thrust vectoring as a primary means of flight control and an innovative high-precision, passive navigation and guidance system.
The Taranis has been designed to be operated by sophisticated on-board computers which follow a set path to avoid targets and adjust itself as required. It is designed to do this without being detected and upon identifying threats it will “request” clearance from the controller before engaging any targets. It is also a technology demonstrator which will undoubtedly lead to a future UCAV system sometime beyond 2030.
India's market is always hot and attractive. As per foreigners the always available chaotic situation in India where people are more interested to gain self glory instead of community’s interest, can be manipulated easily. Everyone is making aggressive efforts to grab the big pie and demanding high costs. India actually have a requirement of nearly 200 medium class and nearly 100 light class fighters. After the cancellation of MMRCA competition discussions were slow, projects are slow, establishment of specific requirements are slow and decision making is slow the only thing running fast is time.
India has not shown any interest in MiG-35 officially and after it's knock out from MMRCA competition anyone amongst officials rarely talked about it. All the claims of India interested in MiG-35 originate from Russian media.
The world was impressed by the Fourth Generation Air Superiority fighters. Everyone watched the new advanced fighters from America, The F-15s and F-16s. Later came the Soviet Su-27 and MiG-29 which showed an another dimension of advanced combat planes. The European Nations realised they were not able to fund any fourth generation fighter program single handedly at national level. Extreme Agility, Powerful Radar, Electro Optic passive detection and targeting, Long Range operations, Heavy weapon carrying capability and Ability to perform multiple roles were key features.
The Eurofighter have a very interesting history and expanses many political and economic matters. The collaborative program also involves many companies from many European partners except the “Big Four” customers of Eurofighter. An Air Superiority fighter with multirole abilities with precision strike being one of them was everyone's anticipation.
In 2003, Sukhoi launched a project to produce a fighter to bridge the gap between upgraded variants of the Su-27 and Su-30MK, and Russia's fifth-generation Sukhoi PAK FA. And the result was Su-35. Su 35 is a 4++ generation aircraft. The Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E is the top Russian air-superiority fighter in service today, and represents the pinnacle of fourth-generation jet fighter design. It will remain so until Russia succeeds in bringing its fifth-generation PAK-FA stealth fighter into production. Distinguished by its unrivaled maneuverability, most of the Su-35’s electronics and weapons capabilities have caught up with those of Western equivalents.
( Su-30 MKI at AeroIndia 2015 )
The Russians offered Sukhoi Su-27 and MiG-29 to Pakistan at almost the same time they did it for India. The Russian negotiations team landed in Pakistan and PAF evaluated Su-27s at PAF base Mushaf in Saragodha. A point in history when India was also considering a tailor made variant of Su-30MK, The advanced Su-30 variant.
Even back then and also today certain aviation enthusiasts media reports point out this event and say that Russia offered Su-27 and MiG-29 to Pakistan just to pressurise Indians for having a bigger order of Su-30s. They are of the opinion that Su-30MKI deal was a disaster and many critical indegenisation opportunities could have been drawn out from this deal. Many journalists’ written articles on prominent news websites have also claimed that Su-30 MKI’s indegensation did not propel the development program for a homegrown fighter in a manner expected. Many serious, baseless and false accusations that Su-30 MKI is a lost opportunity or IAF is struggling to meet operational readiness has been levelled.
( Su-30 MKI at Aero India 2015 )
This “well intentioned” criticism of made in India defence equipment is affecting the minds of general public and making them have a false belief that Indians cannot be self dependent. This has led to a sense of ignorance to the painstaking efforts taken by numerous people for the development program of modern combat aircraft system and the ecosystem that keeps them flying.
Light Combat Helicopter developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited ( HAL ) is a multirole combat helicopter for use by Indian Army and Indian Air Force. It is an attack helicopter derived from the existing HAL Dhruv helicopter. The LCH can be deployed in various roles, including tracking slow-moving aerial targets, insurgency, destroying enemy defences, search and rescue, anti-tank and scouting. It is one of the best weapon systems developed in India presently and has ushered Indian defence market in a new era of modernization and Indigenisation. Read on to know more about this magnificent attack chopper :
The McDonnell Douglas YF 17 was the first defining aircraft of this family taking design experiences from F 5E. The YF 17 lost to YF 16 in the light fighter competition. But failures are stepping stones of success and here is the proof. The YF 17 airframe was bulked into a bigger F 18 A/B as a mid range complement to the bigger F 14 Tomcat. After the cancellation of Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter NATF program. The US Navy wanted a heavy class combat aircraft that could replace all it's F 14s and F/A 18 C/D Hornet aircrafts. A heavily upgraded F 14 was supposed to do the job but US congress went ahead with a more cheaper alternative of developing a bigger F 18 with powerful engines. Certainly they later found F 35 C as a fitting contender but, still their was a need of a twin engine fighter that has better range and electronic attack capability. This requirement was fulfilled by the F/A 18 Super Hornets and E/A 18 Growlers. The F/A 18 Super Hornets are the Growlers are 25% bigger in size than the original hornets. They have square cross section intakes with partial serpentine intakes, that partially hides the engine fan blades. They are powered with a more powerful engine. The E/A 18 Growler is an Electronic Attack variant based on Super Hornet airframe.
Their are unique leading edge root extensions on the Super Hornet airframe. They provide a substantial lift to the heavy body. The Super Hornet is whole lot a new aircraft that apart from maintenance procedures and ejection seat thier is rarely any old thing taken. The Super Hornets later received heavy upgrades like an AESA radar , avionics from the cancelled X 32 and various other podded mission specific sensors.
The F / A 18 Advanced Super Hornet is an upgrade program initiated to add more capabilities to the current existing fleet of Super Hornets and Growlers. As well as possible procurement of more F / A 18s to complement the F 35 C.
Chengdu Aerospace Corporation's J 20 is an advanced fifth generation twin engine single seat Air-Superiority aircraft. It has been intended to replace the 3rd generation aircrafts in inventory of People's Liberation Army - Air Force and serve as a deterance to the deployment of advanced US fifth generation aircrafts in South China sea and anywhere around. There are no known post production variants of Chengdu J 20 and its development program has been funded entirely by Chinese Government. It features all attributes of being an advanced Chinese development which sure would challenge superiority of US , Russia and would dominate Europe in the field of fighter aircraft design.
The Chengdu J 20 has been designed keeping in mind the Chinese Anti Access / Area Denial strategy. According to this strategy, the forces must have minimum fire power to deny access to a powerful enemy over the area of interest. Chengdu J 20 may not be able to match the level of stealth of US fighters but would surely be enough to deny access. The Chinese have given equal importance to Stealth and kinematic performance of an aircraft and have made a high thrust engine, high internal fuel and more number of external fuel tanks being able to carry. The J 20 has been designed to match the level of combat effectiveness of Lockheed F 22 raptor as well as to overpower combat effectiveness of Lockheed F 35 lightning ll. The J 20 may not be able to reach the technological advancement level of F 35 but can perform more tasks and provides a kinematically superior airframe.
There is a sensible case to be made that a confrontation between opposing stealth fighters may be decided at within-visual-ranges, where elements of classic dogfighting and close in air combat manoeuvring may apply.
It is an American Single Engine, Medium Capability Fifth Generation Fighter. There is a family of different aircrafts based on F 35. The F 35 is currently being introduced in service. F 35 is a single engine, single seat, stealth, multirole, fifth generation fighter aircraft. deployed for combat by the United States Air Force and various other Air Forces allied to US. It is an outcome of the erstwhile Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program initiated by the US to replace various aircrafts in service with US military. It is also thus the most costly Fifth Generation Fighter Program because it aims to satisfy multiple requirements in a single airframe. The JSF was intended to replace F 14 Tomcat, F 16 Falcon, F/A 18 Hornet, A-10 Thunderbolt and AV-8B Harrier aircrafts and all their variants.
F-35 JSF development is being principally funded by the United States with additional funding from partners. The partner nations are either NATO members or close U.S. allies. The United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Turkey are part of the active development program; several additional countries have ordered, or are considering ordering, the F-35. All the partner nations have started receiving F 35 aircrafts.
To keep development, production, and operating costs down, a common design was planned in three variants that share 80 percent of their parts:
1 F 35A (CTOL) conventional take off and landing variant.
2 F 35B (STOVL) short-take off and vertical-landing variant.
3 F 35C catapult assisted takeoff but arrested landing ( CATOBAR ) carrier-based (CV) variant.
On 31 July 2015, the first squadron was declared ready for deployment after intensive testing by the United States.
The super-fighter for the 21st century F22 Raptor is worlds first fifth generation fighter aircraft. The first to employ stealth, supersonic cruise, agility and advanced integrated avionics into one single aircraft, it currently dominates the skies over battlefield and bring unequaled capability into the hands of US Air Force fighter pilots.
The high cost of the aircraft, a lack of clear air-to-air missions due to delays in Russian and Chinese fighter programs, a ban on exports, and development of the more versatile and comparatively lower cost F-35 led to the end of F-22 production. A final procurement tally of 187 operational production aircraft was established in 2009 and the last F-22 was delivered to the USAF in 2012.
Sukhoi PAK-FA abbreviated in Russian language as Prospective Airborne Complex of Front line Aviation is a program to develop fifth generation fighter aircraft. The prototype aircraft designated as T 50 which had its first flight on 29 Jan 2010. It is expected to enter service with designation Sukhoi Su 50 in Russian Airforce. The aircraft is being co-developed in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited HAL with 50% sharing of fundings. The HAL would develop an Indian specific variant named Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) whose final contract is expected to be signed at the mid of 2017 after which aircraft will be developed within 7 years. The FGFA will be tailored for requirements of Indian Air Force according to Indian Military doctrine. While the aircraft is expected to be exported in large numbers in Asia Pacific. It was reported at Paris Air Show 2017 that the name FGFA is now completely replaced and the aircraft now be called Prospective Multirole Fighter PMF. The Sukhoi Aviation Corporation claims it to be better than any other fifth generation aircraft currently available for export. It will be the first aircraft in both Russian and Indian service to use stealth technology by which they could evade detection by enemy radar to some extent. It will replace Su 27 and MiG 29 in Russian Service and MiG 21 in Indian service.
After the unveiling of J 31 or FC 31's new model and a new flying prototype of J 31. There were significant improvements being analysed about it. These improvements would catapult J 31 in the export market and would fulfill the Chinese dream of ending the monopoly of US in sale of fifth generation fighter aircrafts. Unlike old juice in a new bottle the Shenyang J 31 has the capability to outrun any regional adversaries like F 15 of Japan or Su 30 MKI of India. It is therefore very important to analyse the capabilities of this new aircraft and to see how it shifts the power balance equations.
Believe in yourself You will be successful. Believe in ISRO India will be successful. The Indian Space Research Organisation is now readying itself to jump to the next level. Once again putting everyone in a surprise. After the testing of Indegeneous Cryogenic Engines like CE 7.5, CE 20 and SCE 200. ISRO is putting them and their variants in use to make our larger dreams into reality. ISRO has taken up the challenge to develop Unified Launch Vehicle and Heavy Launch Vehicle. These new series of Rockets shows ISRO'S modular approach where the rockets can be customised to certain limits to make them capable for variety of space launch applications. The output of a cryogenic engine is pure H2O so we won't even be doing any pollution either. Here we introduce these two in a descriptive, balanced, interesting and easy to understand manner.
After The Announcement of India selling BrahMos missile to Vietnam and probably Philippines also, Many Fanboys went gala over it. It is true that BrahMos is a very effective antiship weapon. But without technical comparison it will be a daydream to think that BrahMos can stop an Invasion on Vietnam's Waters. To know the effectiveness it is important to study how BrahMos performs against Chinese Ship Based SAMs and how much punch does it pack. For that purpose we must study the PLAN ships deployed at it's Borders with Vietnam and their effectiveness. It is very important for India to contain China and create more troubles for it in it's own backyard. Hats Off to the Indian Govt.'s decision to sell BrahMos to Vietnam and even perform Oil exploration there. This would keep China too busy in their own backyard where they would increase the concentration of their assets and won't be able to deploy any formidable force in Indian Ocean.
Thank You everyone for the amazing response we had yesterday. Hope you all enjoyed now here are more details. The exact thing we all want.
The Phase 2 system will have longer range radars (Detection range of 1,500km as opposed to 600 km for LRTR radar), and new hypersonic interceptor missiles flying at Mach 6-7 (As opposed to Mach 4-5 for Phase 1 missiles) with agility and the capability to discriminate against ballistic missile defence counter measures. Unlike the Phase 1 Swordfish radar developed by India in partnership with Israel, the radar to support Phase 2 interception will have 80% indigenous component, DRDO chief VK Saraswat told the press on May 15, 2011.
"Only some of the equipments and consultancy would be provided by Israel," Saraswat said
The Ballistic Missile Defence shield prepared by India's DRDO involves India's extensively funded works in defence fields and Top class scientists involved. It is one of the most ambitious projects of DRDO. India is the 4th country to develop a Ballistic Missile Defence Shield. Development of BMDS in India began in 1999 as after the Kargil conflict India realised that it's cities need to be protected from Nuclear Tipped Ballistic missiles of Pakistan and China. India's worst fears are that their will be a radical change of Power in Pakistan that would throw Pakistan's Nukes in the hands of Insurgents. Practically a Democratic Pakistan never had any war with Democratic India (except kargil). War has happened only when Pakistan had been under Military Dictatorship. Right now Democracy is in strong phase in Pakistan but The future is always uncertain. Seeing the strategic depth of this matter Indians want a permanent solution to counter the Nuclear threat. Definitely BMDS then becomes a strategic weapon.
Now once again here we are where we have to chose between some more new variants of the 4Gs. After cancelling MMRCA tender because of being fucked up by Dassault's price changes. The new tender floated to locally manufacture single engine fighter aircraft have fighters for it. The tender has attracted two wonderful aircrafts throwing a whole new competition for Indians. And of course a whole new debate topic for Aviation geeks. The F 16 Block 70 which is dubbed to be the most advanced variant of F 16 and The Saab Gripen NG/ E.
Here we are bringing to you the full spectrum of EW capabilities, Weapons and Other warfare capabilities plus potential weaknesses. So that we can make a proper choice as to which one could be better.
Keeping Alive the legacy of having most accurate Missiles made by the Missile Man Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. India has now made missiles that are more capable than the previous ones. These missiles have been designed keeping in mind the terrain at India's national borders, road connectivity, weather and Cold Start Military doctrine. For the sake of cold start it is very critical that Indians should be able to deploy missiles within minimum time. The missiles are..................
4 BrahMos ll.
Many articles have been written and many debates with filthy language has gone , but nobody has talked about tactical comparisons of both. Indian authors are seen always presenting only those points in which LCA scores better than JF 17. Indian authors rarely discuss about the small weapon package of LCA, While Pakistani authors neglecting the contribution of Chinese talk like JF 17 is just theirs, they also claim JF 17 to be 'semi stealth' just because it has DSI inlets...........huh.
Nobody talks about how would they work in battlespace. Many people escape argument by saying comparison cannot happen between LCA and JF 17 as both are of Different class/category. Yes it is true that both are of different category but comparison can happen as we all know they may face each other in a battle and many countries may buy them so comparison is necessary.
Based on the type of missions these Multirole fighters can perform ,the Author have assumed possible Combat Scenarios of both. Taking into consideration the Flight Characteristics of LCA mk1 and JF 17 block l as standard input from their respective official websites and the number of weapons they can carry. This comparison is made. I have neglected such missions that involve both aircraft being supported by AWACS or any other aircraft ,because that varies from air force to airforce. I have considered all variants of LCA and JF 17 for the sake of worst case scenario.
To add flavour I have given all possibilities a story line so that Defence enthusiasts enjoy reading the article and not get bored.
1 If LCA goes on a bombing Mission and is intercepted by JF 17.
24 August 2030 , Briefing room of an Airbase. The Wing Commander instructs his boys, " Our troops are unable to move forward ,because of heavy concentration of Enemy's Artillery. If we our army provides our marching troops with our artillery via a land route, it will be too late, The troops have demanded a Close Air Support immediately".
Yes ,they are. After reading this article you would agree to what I want to say. What were you imagining that you would manoeuvre through enemy airspace , would trick the enemy SAMs, dodge the enemy fighters and bomb your target??? Very soon we may not need to do this.
Top military nations are in a run to make hypersonic missiles. Hyper sonic weapons can be more survivable because of the extreme speed and altitude. They would be hard to stop. Hard to interpret and even more tedious to engage. Hypersonic means something that can achieve the speeds 5 times that of Sound. So Militaries want missiles and aircraft that can achieve Hypersonic Speeds.
But how they are going to develop such fast missiles or aircraft ?????
There are 2 kinds of approaches to solving the hypersonic challenge. Scramjet and Boost glide.
The basic thing for being a fifth generation fighter plane is that it must have stealth profiling. That means the surface must be shaped in such a way that it deflects radar waves anywhere else except back to radar. The surface absorbs radar waves to some extent. Another important thing is Supercruise ability, this is achieved by having a high power engine and internal weapon bays. Fourth generation Aircrafts carry weapons loaded on their wings this increases drag and hence with weapons being loaded they can't go supercruise. The aircraft must achieve speeds beyond speed of sound and must be able to deploy weapons at that speed.
Fifth generation Aircrafts have better awareness with sensors and jammers all around their airframe. The data from these sensors is processed and showed on pilot's function display so that pilot must be alert about threats in the nearby environment. The Fifth Generation Aircraft is armed with beyond visual range weapons, that means it must be able to release a weapon from that much far that the enemies don't see it. For this purpose they are equipped with AESA (Advanced Electronically Scanned Array) Radar.
This article is an attempt to rank the fifth generation fighters according to their capabilities in battlefield. I have considered only those aircrafts which are either operational or have flying prototypes. Besides the aircrafts in this list their are many ongoing projects developing fight generation aircrafts.
So here we are.........
#6 Shenyang J 31.
Many people call it J 21 snowy owl, gyrfalcon and many more. F 60 is the export variant. The J 31 is also assumed to be either copied or modified version of Lockheed F 35. Actually it has got some similarities with F 35 but isn't a copy. The F 35 airframe is quite mature but the less experience of Chinese designers is clearly visible in J 31.
There are very less official data available so I have to rely on just unofficial things. If you look at its airshow video it is clear that the airframe without leading edge extensions bleed a lot of energy and the pilot had a hectic time keeping time the nose upwards. It showed a long smoke trail that suggests Chinese hasn't worked on reducing the Infrared signature of the aircraft. The conventional round exhaust and no use of 3 D thrust vectoring makes me comment that in terms of airframe design it just old bread in a new package.
Although there is no official confirmation or release but J 31's chief designer Sun Song said that new prototype includes. The differences include a stealthier cockpit, a next-generation helmet mounted sight, holographic cockpit displays, EOTS, aerodynamic revisions and more. So while wondering what is this EOTS , I think it may be an internally carried targeting system just like that at the Chin of F 35. Although not visible on prototypes but production variant may have it.
It can be safely assumed that it will have an AESA radar and Own Engines. It will also be equipped with ECM devices integrated into the airframe. Official from AVIC claimed that additive manufacturing was extensively used on the aircraft, resulting in 50% reduction in components compared to similar aircraft. However, the resulting airframe cannot be disassembled, and the static test frame had to be transported in whole as consequence.
All an all J 31 is a low level fifth generation combat aircraft with limited capabilities. It may have been made for export. But it should be seen how many units are orders by it's home AirForce. It is believed that it would be ready for low rate production by 2019.
The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft is in it's advanced stage of development. Calibration of many important things has been done and airframe design being finalised. Stealth aspects have been tested. All thanks to the infrastructure developed for LCA.
Now the time has come that IAF needs to take some tough decisions like..........
The AMCA will have two engines of nearly 100kN thrust each to satisfy all its power requirements. The Kaveri Engine supposed to be developed for LCA Tejas provides just 70kN of thrust. The French company Safran has offered to review the program in £ 1million. The IAF is pressing on licence manufacturing of GE- F 414 Engine that powers the F 18. The Engines also need to have things like FADEC and 3D thrust Vector capabilities. For which HAL has to do a challenging job of designing them. The AMCA will have Integrated vehicle health management system (IVHMS) and Integrated Flight and Propulsion Control System (IFPCS) which will combine traditional and modern engine control systems to relive the pilot from much of the work along with increasing Engine life. These systems should either be added later or must be asked earlier for AMCA.
Without a confirming decision on Engines I am personally scared that AMCA may face the same fate as all Indigenous Aircrafts of HAL has faced be it HJT Kiran the HF24 or LCA.
The news has come that IAF would very soon make a final call for AMCA's engine. Moreover now IITs have also said to have teamed up to develop a turbofan engine for combat aircraft.
The Indigenous weapons like Astra BVR , Sudarshan Laser Guided Bomb and DRDO'S anti radiation missiles are in testing phase and hence their sizes hasn't been optimised yet. Moreover they simply does not seem small enough to be fitted inside the weapon bays of AMCA. IAF must convey this to ADA about what weapons they want on AMCA. Which till now seems that IAF hasn't communicated yet. The BVR air to air missiles of F22 can fold their fins so that they could be fitted inside weapon bays and F22 carries small diameter bombs.
Seeing the size of Sudarshan LGB it does not seem to able to be fitted inside AMCA's internal weapon bays. IAF may not have convyed this just to keep all options open.
IAF fighters aren't seen carrying any nextgeneration air to ground weapons like Glide Bombs, JDAMs ,AirLaunched cruise missiles, etc. So it is difficult to say that AMCA would carry these kind of Smart Weapons or not. As AMCA isn't going to carry any targetting pod then it may be possible that it would possibly carry Satellite Navigation guided bombs. MiG 29 and Su 30 of IAF carry Russian TV guided missiles but they are old.
Definitely as a replacement for Mirage and MiG 29s in IAF the AMCA will have a role of Offensive Air to Air and Defensive Air to Air Combat. Besides providing Air Superiority in wartime and perform a Combat Air Patrol. I personally have doubts about how can it be a replacement for Mirages. AMCA at its best can carry 2 bombs and that too internally it isn't yet clear that it will have an IRST scanner or not hence it has to rely on it's AESA radar for targeting purpose. Being stealth it cannot even carry any targeting pod. In future India and many others will have stealth bomber drones for performing precision ground attack roles. Calling AMCA for any such role would be costly.
For Air to Air missions it is an Impressive Replacement. There is no doubts about it's stealth capabilities as it is clear from the images that AMCA has almost duplicated the frontal designs of the highly stealthly F22. It is expected therefore that AMCA will be able to perform missions with in a combat radius of nearly 1500 to 2000 kms. That is essential for India's Military Doctrine.
Apart from having regular sensors like MAWS, RWR, AESA Radar AMCA must have something more. Because we can get all these in a 4th generation fighter too. The advanced sensors like Sorbicija Jammer that reflects 'false target position' to the enemy or Dassault Rafael's Spectra which reflects noise back to the ground radar to confuse it. Without such unique and one of a kind electronic capabilities nobody is going to purchase AMCA.
But to develop such sensors IAF has to convey it's practical experiences to HAL and ADA. It has to do threat optimisation for AMCA so that it's designers could suggest some breakthrough measures to eleminiate/evade threats.
With Aircrafts like F 22 Raptor already in operation since 2006. The Chinese have been developing Anti-Stealth technologies to detect such Very Low Observable Aircrafts. Then in that case AMCA must have something more. This is the area where there are chances to develop something new that hasn't been made yet.
Carefully studying the Chinese Anti-Stealth technology would help develop detection technologies to counter that.
Rest all...... Lets just prepare for the worst
And Hope for the best !