Friday, February 11, 2011

BAE Displays Model of Navalized Typhoon for India

BAE Systems responded to an Indian Navy request for information on a new naval fighter last year with an offer based on the Typhoon combat jet.

BAE Systems responded to an Indian Navy request for information on a new naval fighter with an offer based on the Typhoon combat jet. Above, a Eurofighter Typhoon takes off in June 2009. (Alan Lessig / Staff file photo)

At the Aero India 2011 show, which opened here Feb. 9, the company took the wraps off what it thinks an Indian naval Typhoon might look like. The design may be aimed squarely at the Indians, but with questions still being asked by some sections of the U.K. government over the price of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), which is destined to equip a new Royal Navy aircraft carrier, the re-emergence of the naval Typhoon was a reminder options do exist.

Asked about the naval Typhoon at the show, Peter Luff, the British defense minister visiting Aero India in support of London's increasing export drive, ruled out interest in any platform other than the Joint Strike Fighter.

Paul Hopkins, BAE's vice president of air business development, said the work done on the naval Typhoon was solely geared toward the Indian Navy.

That said, the previous Labour administration eyed a navalized Typhoon as a possible plan B during negotiations with the U.S. over JSF technology transfer, and some of the work supporting the Indian request for information stems from that period.

Pictures displayed by BAE showed an aircraft model with a number of modifications compared to the land-based Typhoon being offered to the Indian Air Force in a contest to provide a medium, multirole combat aircraft. Most obvious is the conformal tanks and thrust vectoring nozzles, but other more subtle changes included a beefed-up undercarriage, some strengthening of the airframe and other requirements needed to take Typhoon to sea.

A small deployable flap on the upper wing could also be fitted to improve handling during take-off if thrust vectoring was not incorporated in the requirement.

Hopkins said BAE has done sufficient work to establish whether a naval Typhoon for the Indian Navy is feasible. Now the company has at least two hurdles to overcome.

First, Typhoon has to beat out opposition from the F/A-18, Rafale, Gripen, F-16 and MiG-35 for the Air Force order. Then the Indian Navy needs to decide whether it will continue to use ski jumps on its expanding aircraft carrier force or start to switch to a catapult and arrestor gear configuration.

"If it's a decision for a catapult, then we are not a contender," said Hopkins.

Meeting catapult requirements would add too much weight to the aircraft, blunt performance and add substantially to modification costs.

The more modest changes needed to launch from a ski jump and recover using an arrestor hook would add only around 500 kilograms to the aircraft weight, said Hopkins.

Air Force Typhoons already carry an arrestor hook for emergency landings although this would require strengthening.

Hopkins said a naval Typhoon would be capable of operating from the 45,000-ton Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov, now being converted for the Indians into a vessel that can accommodate short takeoff but arrested recovery (STOBAR) flight.

Pictures of the Typhoon were shown on the BAE stand with the converted Russian carrier in the background.

BAE wasn't the only company with a fighter without a naval pedigree to respond to the Indian request for information.

A naval version of a STOBAR-capable Gripen is also being developed by Saab.

The F/A-18 and Rafale are already up to speed as land-based and naval fighters, and offer a ready-made catapult-launched solution once the Navy has a formal requirement for a new fighter.

Last month, the U.S. added to the possible naval contenders by saying it would make the JSF available if India asked.

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