By Vishnu Makhijani, IANS,
El Segundo (California) : A cutting-edge technology radar will give the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet a crucial edge over its competitors in the race for an Indian Air Force (IAF) order for 126 combat jets but India will not receive the complete technology for it, its manufacturer said.
“Our response has been fully compliant with the IAF request for proposal (RFP). However, the extent of technology transfer would be dependent on the permission we receive from the US government,” avionics major Raytheon Company’s Dave Goold told a group of visiting journalists here Monday.
The equipment in question is the APG-79 Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar that enables the F/A-18 to seamlessly shift into an AWACS (airborne warning and control system) mode while flying on a combat mission.
“The issue is under discussion. We are willing to engage (the Indian defence ministry on this) subject to US government regulations,” added Goold, who is the director of strategy and business development for the F/A-18 programme at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.
Transfer of technology is mandated under India’s Defence Procurement Procedure enunciated in 2006 and which is now being fine-tuned. In the case of the IAF tender, the extent of technology transfer for the radar is said to have been pegged at 60 percent.
The F/A-18 is one of the six jets in the running for the IAF order. The others are the Lockheed Martin F-16, the Dassault Rafaele, the Saab Grippen, the Mig-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The manufacturers submitted their bids last Monday and the IAF will take about two-and-a-half years to examine them.
Describing the AESA radar as “technologically the most advanced in the world”, Goold said it would “truly serve as a force multiplier”.
Pointing to its five crucial advantages, he said it would improve lethality, enhance situational awareness, and improve survivability, supportability and affordability.
“We have estimated that the radar has an uptime of 15,000 hours, during which it requires minimal or no maintenance,” Goold added.
In this context, he noted that the radar had shown “very, very positive” operational capability and maintainability during the ongoing war in Iraq and had met “all specifications we had laid down for reliability”.
“We are just starting to scratch the envelope of what the AESA can do,” Goold added.
The US Navy has ordered 437 systems for its Super Hornets. Australia has ordered another 24 AESAs for its F/A-18s.
Boeing had earlier said it would supply the aircraft in four phases should it win the IAF order.
“In phase zero, we will supply 18 aircraft in fully assembled condition. In phase one, we will supply the aircraft in semi-knocked down condition with 1,800 parts and 300 tools,” Mike Rietz, F-18 programme manager for India, said during a defence exposition in New Delhi in February.
“In phase two, the aircraft will come in completely knocked down condition with 17,000 parts and 1,000-plus tools. In phase three, the aircraft and its entire range of 30,000 parts will be indigenously manufactured in India,” he added.
‘In this way, we will gradually raise the level of technology that HAL (Hindustan Aircraft Ltd – which will build the aircraft in India) will have to absorb,” Rietz said.
The delivery schedule means that 108 of the 126 aircraft will be assembled in India, roughly half of them with Boeing-supplied parts while the balance would be totally built in this country.
“The RFP lays down that the first aircraft is supplied within 36 months of the contract being signed and the 18th within 48 months. The 19th aircraft, the first to be assembled in India, will come within 54 months.
“Thereafter, there will be an incremental increase with the last aircraft to be delivered by 2020,” Rietz said.