Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) is an Indian fighter jet which is currently under development. This is being designed for requirements of Indian Navy by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). TEDBF will mainly operate from Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers.
This will be the first article of our TEDBF series. In this article we will try to answer following questions.
What is the need of TEDBF project?
How Indian Navy’s current fleet of carrier based fighters operate and what are the issues with it?
Why there is shortage of carrier based fighter jets?
How many units of TEDBF will be inducted?
What is the expected timeline of the project?
Need Of The TEDBF-
As it is clear from its name, TEDBF will operate from Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers. Currently Navy operates Russian origin MiG-29K from its carriers. The plan is to replace them with indigenous TEDBF after 2030.
There are various issues with Mig-29K. Let’s try to understand them one by one.
1. High Accident Rate-
Indian Navy has lost 3 MiG-29K so far in accidents. Last year we lost Commander Nishant Singh in one such accident. This high accident rate is a cause of concern.
2. Shortage Of Aircraft-
Lets try to understand the distribution of MiG-29K fleet in detail.
- Indian Navy had procured 45 MiG-29K. Out of which 3 are lost in accidents. This makes number of total available jets 42.
- Navy currently operates 1 aircraft carrier i.e. INS Vikramaditya. The first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant will be inducted later this year or next year. Thus Navy will be operating 2 aircraft carriers in near future.
- Requirement of each of these carriers is of 36 aircraft i.e. 2 squadrons. But Indian Navy operates different number of fighters in peacetime and war time. In war time, carriers operate with their full capacity, i.e. 36 aircraft on each carrier. But in peacetime it operates only 18 aircraft i.e. 1 squadron on each carrier.
- Thus for 2 carriers in war time, there is requirement is of 72 aircraft (36×2) while peacetime requirement is of 36 aircraft (18×2). So one may conclude that current fleet of MiG-29K (42 units) is sufficient for peace time deployment of both the carriers. But that’s not the truth.
- Actually the current fleet is insufficient for meeting even peacetime requirements leave aside war time requirements.
Aircraft Availability Ratio
- To understand this, we need to take into account another factor which is Aircraft Availability Ratio. This ratio tells the number of aircraft from the fleet that will be available any time for operations. An entire fleet is practically never ready to be deployed in a mission. This is because some aircraft will be undergoing maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). This is required after certain hours of flying. For example, as per Rafael deal, the availability ratio of Rafael is said to be 75%. This means that out of 36, around 27 jets will be ready for deployment at any time. This is quite a good number.
- But this ratio is grim for the MiG-29K. Some reports claim it to be around 60% while some other at only 50%. Let’s consider it as 60%. Then also only 25/26 jets will be available at any point of time. As per the Print’s report, Navy actually operates less than 24 of them.
- If we divide this number of 26 in 2 carriers, there will be 13 aircraft per carrier. This is not fulfilling even peacetime requirement of the 2 aircraft carriers. Also it cannot fully meet war time requirement of the single aircraft carrier. In such condition the second carrier will be without fighters, making it a toothless tiger.
This detail analysis can give idea of shortage of deck based fighters in Indian Navy.
Apart from these issues, following factors push India to go for TEDBF project-
Quest For New Technology-
The MiG-29K is already facing many issues. The militaries across globe are moving towards 4.5 and higher generation fighter jets. Thus TEDBF becomes a good in terms of technology that it offers.
Changing Geopolitics Of Indian Ocean Region-
Indian Navy aspires to be a blue water navy and continue its dominance over the Indian ocean region. But the increasing presence of China may pose a threat. To counter China, India needs state of the art technology.
Induction Of New Aircraft Carriers-
INS Vikrant may be commissioned within a year or two. Also the talks about second indigenous aircraft carrier i.e. INS Vishal are going around. If India wants to realize full potential of these carriers, it needs a capable fleet of deck based fighters.
An Indigenous Platform-
This will be in line with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat policy of Government of India. Also India aspires to be a major Defence exporter. Thus importing such a crucial platform is not going to be a good option.
How Many Units Of TEDBF Will Be Procured?
The current requirement of Indian Navy is of 50 aircraft. But in upcoming period, it can increase considerably with induction of INS Vishal, a proposed third aircraft carrier. This carrier being a super carrier is likely to have more requirement than that of the current aircraft carriers.
Timeline Of The TEDBF Project-
Dr. G. Satish Reddy, DRDO chairman recently gave some important updates about the timeline of TEDBF project.
As per this, TEDBF can make its first flight in 2026. For this to happen, actual work on first prototype should commence from 2024. Also it can enter into production from 2030-31. Thus Indian Navy is likely to get these new fighters in the starting of the next decade.
In next article we will cover other crucial aspects of TEDBF project. These will be the updates about its design, specifications, new features, capabilities and possible weapon package.
We will also try to answer some questions that are asked about this project.
Such as why Indian Navy is taking FA-18 Super Hornets on lease from US if we are developing indigenous TEDBF?
Will there be an indigenous engine in the TEDBF?
Why Navy rejected the naval version of LCA Tejas which has successfully demonstrated landing and take-off from INS Vikramaditya?
Can’t we modify Tejas mk2 or MWF into a naval version instead of going for a new project?
If you have any questions about TEDBF, you can ask them in comments. We will try to answer them as well in the next article.