Navy rejects Tejas, begins global search

January 28, 2017 12:25 am | Updated 12:29 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Three Tejas aircraft will do a flypast this Republic Day. — File photo

Three Tejas aircraft will do a flypast this Republic Day. — File photo

After declaring the naval version of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas unfit for operating from aircraft carriers in its “present form,” the Indian Navy has launched a global hunt for a carrier-based multi-role fighter aircraft.

“The Defence Ministry intends to procure approximately 57 Multi-Role Carrier-Borne Fighters [MRCBF] for the Navy,” the Navy stated in the Request for Information (RFI) dated January 17.

Last month, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said the “present LCA does not meet the carrier capability required by the Navy.” He said the service would continue to support its development but “at the same time we will seek aircraft elsewhere which can operate on the aircraft carrier.”

Mig-29K fighters in use

The Navy currently operates Russian Mig-29K twin engine fighters from the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. These will also fly from the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant once it enters service. The Navy has procured 45 Mig-29Ks in two batches.

The Navy does not intend to procure more Mig-29s given its troubled history.

While the RFI does not specify a single or twin engine aircraft, Navy officials too had said in the past that they would need heavier and more capable aircraft for a diverse set of operations.

The RFI says the aircraft are “intended as day-and-night capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air defence, air-to-surface operations, Buddy refuelling, reconnaissance etc from IN aircraft carriers.”

The IAC-II which is currently at the design stage can handle twin engine, heavy aircraft, greatly extending the area of operations.

This narrows down the selection to two aircraft now available in the global market — Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale, 36 of which the Indian Air Force has contracted. The F-35 fifth generation aircraft of the U.S. is also an option.

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