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Commentary - Aircraft Upgrade Projects - Feb 2010

Commentary - Aircraft Upgrade Projects - Feb 2010

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Published by rahulgangal
The Indian Air Force-IAF at present is grappling with a sharp decline in the number of
its fighter squadrons, which presently stand at a precarious number of 32. The
sanctioned strength of the IAF is 39.5 squadrons.
However the IAF is confident that operational procurement plans are in place to ensure
its capability to operate in India’s expanding strategic environment, stretching from the
Persian Gulf right up to the Malacca Strait.
The 4th largest air force in the world’s eventual aim is to transform into an
‘Expeditionary aerospace force’, with an innate capability of rapid deployment and
operations at a global scale.
This commentary provides a quick round-up of some of the major upgrade programs
underway.
The Indian Air Force-IAF at present is grappling with a sharp decline in the number of
its fighter squadrons, which presently stand at a precarious number of 32. The
sanctioned strength of the IAF is 39.5 squadrons.
However the IAF is confident that operational procurement plans are in place to ensure
its capability to operate in India’s expanding strategic environment, stretching from the
Persian Gulf right up to the Malacca Strait.
The 4th largest air force in the world’s eventual aim is to transform into an
‘Expeditionary aerospace force’, with an innate capability of rapid deployment and
operations at a global scale.
This commentary provides a quick round-up of some of the major upgrade programs
underway.

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Published by: rahulgangal on Mar 15, 2010
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Flight of Capability
The Indian Air Force-IAF at present is grappling with a sharp decline in the number of its fighter squadrons, which presently stand at a precarious number of 32. Thesanctioned strength of the IAF is 39.5 squadrons.However the IAF is confident that operational procurement plans are in place to ensureits capability to operate in India’s expanding strategic environment, stretching from thePersian Gulf right up to the Malacca Strait.The 4
th
largest air force in the world’s eventual aim is to transform into an‘Expeditionary aerospace force’, with an innate capability of rapid deployment andoperations at a global scale.This commentary provides a quick round-up of some of the major upgrade programsunderway.
A look at the presentAircraft upgradeprograms.
February 2010 I A Commentary on Aircraft Upgrades
MIG 29 “BAAZ”; In the Background is the Su-30 MKI.
 
IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik,has outlined a three-pronged strategy for the Air Force. One, ‘to see first and see the farthest’, with air-borne warning and control systems (AWACS) and satellites. Two, ‘to reach first and the farthest’, with mid-air re-fullers to enhance the radius of operations of its fighters. And three, ‘to hit hard and accurately’, with advanced missiles and precision guided munitions. (PGM) 
Program: MIG 29 “BAAZ” upgrade / Engine
 
Proposal finalized – December ‘06, inked inMarch 2008 with RSK-MiG
 
Price:
o
 
US$ 1,000 million for 62 units
o
 
US$ 250 million for 120 engines
Background:
In February ‘06, the Indiangovernment decided to upgrade its existingfleet of MiG- 29S, MiG-29B and the twin seaterMiG-29UB. This upgrade would provide thefighters with multi role capabilities andimprove their ability to carry advancedweapons. The upgraded aircrafts would becalled MiG-29SMT / UBT fighters and theirflight-hour lifetimes would be extended from25 years-2500hrs to 40 years-3500hrs. TheRussian company RSK-MiG already had adedicated upgrade kit for this program. It wasdecided that the first 6 fighters would beupgraded in Russia, while the rest would beupgraded in India- at the base repair depot-Nasik. The program was to be completed in 3years from the date of the contract beingsigned. (August 2008)The upgraded fighters would be fitted withextra fuel tanks in a thickened center spine.Also included in the upgrade would be a newavionics suite including the Phaztron Zhuk-MEradar and in-flight refueling capacities.
Engine:
The Indian govt. has also signed in2006; contracts to license produce 120 units of the the RD-33 series III jet engines, worth US$250million. These engines would be animprovement on the existing RD-33 series I andII engines that are currently installed in the MiG29 fleet.
Present Situation:
The program is now slatedfor completion only by 2014, almost 3 yearsbehind schedule.The IAF was to provide RSK-MiG the associatedlist of equipment and specifications. These
 
components would reportedly have come fromIndian, Russian, French and Israel (Elbit).However, the IAF is yet to finalize this list andprovide it to RSK-MiG.
Program: Mirage 2000 upgrade
 
RFP floated in April 2008, 2 years afterthe program was finalized.
 
Estimated cost of US$ 1,500 million for51 units to be upgraded to the DASH-5standard.
Background:
Thales responded to the RFP inJuly 2008. Under the proposed plan, thecompany would deliver the first two aircraftfrom in France within 40 months of the signingof the contract, and would simultaneouslyassist HAL in upgrading another two aircraft inIndia. Thereafter, HAL would upgrade one of the remaining 47 aircraft, every month. Theupgrade would extend the service life of theaircraft by an estimated 20 years.Under the upgrade, the entire frame would bestripped down to be re-wired and re-equippedwith new avionics, mission computers, glasscockpits, helmet-mounted displays, electronicwarfare suites and weapons systems. Theseupgrades would enhance the fighters longerrange detection across the spectrum, itstactical situation awareness, longer rangeweapon firing capability against multiplesimultaneous targets and its weapon stealthand extended operating envelope with thecapability to engage ground targets whilecountering airborne threats. The new weaponssuite would include MBDA MICA, ASRAAMmissiles and other NATO standard air-to-surface guided weapons.
Present Situation
: During Prime MinisterSingh’s state visit to France in July 2009, thetwo countries were slated to ink the US$ 2,100million Mirage upgrade. However, the deal didnot go through. Initially, Thales had made anoffer of US$ 2,900 million for the upgrade; thisafter protracted negotiations had been reducedto US$ 2,100 million, which also the IAF foundexorbitant. The IAF claimed that instead of spending US$ 41 million on each MIRAGE-2000,it would prefer to buy brand new fighters. It isworth noting that the original purchase cost of the each MIRAGE-2000 was US$ 31 million.The French urgency to get the deal signedduring President Sarkozy’s visit in early 2010,has signaled Thales to source a significant shareof work and components from India. This willhelp reduce their offer price. Indian avionicsmanufacturers like Samtel-Thales Avionics, aJV, will now manufacture certain upgradecomponents locally. This will also assist Thalesin meeting its offset liabilities that will arise outof the deal.In the latest development (December ‘09),Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has emergedas a contender. The IAI proposal also includesrewiring the aircraft to enable them to carrythe Rafael’s Derby BVR missile and Python-Vshort range missile. The armamentcompatibility extends further with theincorporation of various Israeli sourced air-to-surface guided weapons. This Israeli firm hasalso opted to provide a fully operationalmission simulator to the IAF. According to asource, the IAI offer is 40% cheaper than theFrench proposal. Even though IAI is not theOEM in this case, the company has significantexperience on similar aircrafts. IAI alsomanufactures the KFIR, an aircraft similar tothe MIRAGE-III / IV.
Program: Aviant / Antonov An-32
 
Antonov proposed the upgradeprogram in 2005.
 
Contract signed in June 2009 withSpetsTechnoExport (STE) of UKRAINE.
 
Price: US$ 400 million for 104 units.
Background:
The IAF presently operates 105An-32’s in the medium capacity transportaircraft category. These aircraft were deliveredin 1984. The qualitative requirements as listedby the IAF for the upgrade are- extending

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