INDIA’S LONG-WINGED HAL Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme notched up two important milestones in August, with the test fleet demonstrating a successful wire engagement during arrestor hook trials and a dry in-flight refuelling contact for the first time.
On the other side of the ledger, the Malaysian Defence Minister has recently revealed that only four of the Air Force’s 18 Sukhoi Su- 30MKMs were serviceable in August, with the bulk of the fleet awaiting funding for overhaul.
Finally, the Republic of Singapore Air Force formally unveiled the first of six Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft on September 1, 2018.
The second naval prototype (NP2) of India’s indigenous LCA, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas, successfully engaged the arrestor wire at a shore-based test facility for the first time on August 2, 2018. The engagement was made during moderate-speed taxi trials at the shore-based test facility at INS Hansa, Goa.
The test was performed by Captain Shivnath Dahiya and is the first in a series of tests before the Tejas performs an arrested landing at the facility. The Tejas’ arrestor hook system has been designed and developed by HAL’s Aircraft Research and Design Centre and its extension and retraction were successfully demonstrated during flight testing from HAL’s facility in Bengaluru on July 23, 2018. Following this portion of the trials, NP2 deployed from Bengaluru to Goa on July 28, 2018 to begin the current phase.
Chief Managing Director of HAL, T. Suvarna Raju said: “This is the first of a series of engagements planned at proofing the arrestor hook capability.”
The testing is part of HAL’s carrier capability trials undertaken at Goa, which will culminate with arrested landings aboard one of the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers in the future.
This milestone was followed on September 4, 2018, by the first dry contact between an Indian Air Force (IAF) Tejas Mk1 with an Ilyushin Il-78MKI tanker from the IAF’s 78 Squadron ‘Battle Cry’, from Agra.
In a statement issued the following day, the IAF said that the speciallyinstrumented Tejas, flown by IAF test pilot Group Captain Joshi, launched from Maharajpur Air Force Station near Gwalior and the Il-78, flown by 78 Squadron Commanding officer, Group Captain R Arvind, launched from its base at Agra for the trials.
An IAF spokesperson said: “All flight parameters of the Tejas aircraft were transmitted live to a ground control unit set up at Gwalior air base, where Aeronautical Development Agency scientists constantly monitored the technical parameters of the mission. A second Tejas aircraft flying in formation was used to observe the exercise closely.”
The AAR capability is a critical requirement for Final Operational Clearance of the Tejas Mk1 in the future and trials follow a series of ground tests, which were successfully completed recently.
The IAF spokesperson added: “The success of these trials is a major leap for the indigenous fighter, thus enhancing its mission capability by increasing its range and payload.”
Malaysian Su-30 serviceability
Malaysia’s new Defence Minister, Mohamad Sabu told parliament on July 31, 2018, that only four of the Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM or Royal Malaysian Air Force), Sukhoi Su-30MKM leet were serviceable.
The TUDM has a leet of 18 Su-30s, serving with 11 Skuadron ‘Golden Cobra’ at Gong Kedak Air Base in Terengganu. The Sukhois were delivered between 2007 and 2009 and are, numerically at least, one of the most important combat aircraft in Malaysia’s inventory.
Mohamad Sabu told the country’s parliament that the 14 unserviceable aircraft are awaiting major overhaul. Each aircraft requires a major overhaul afters ten years in service, so even the four jets currently serviceable will be grounded when their individual anniversaries are reached in 2019.
AIR International understands that the TUDM does not have the funding to send the aircraft back to Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation at Irkut, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
According to local media reports on July 31, 2018, the Malaysian Ministry of Defence had terminated the services of the contractor engaged to perform the work by the previous administration (understood to be the OEM) and is seeking to replace it with local contractors. Malaysia’s Aerospace System Technology Corporation is the present local support agency for the aircraft and is arguably bestplaced to perform the work.
The TUDM has previously used one Su-30MKM as a test bed to validate a local overhaul programme and found that the work could be performed locally at a fraction of the cost involved with sending each aircraft back to Russia to have the work done.
However, TUDM Chief, General Afendi Buang told Malaysia’s New Straits Times newspaper on August 3, 2018, that the service’s operational budget is ‘severely constrained’ and to expand the capabilities of a local contractor and perform the overhauls will require more time and an increase in funding.
Singapore’s new tanker on show
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) displayed its new Airbus Defence and Space A330 MRTT capability in public for the first time on September 1, 2018, when one aircraft participated in the RSAF’s 50th anniversary parade.
The aircraft, serial number 761 (msn 1762), is painted in special markings to commemorate the RSAF’s birthday and is the second of six on order for the service. The RSAF ordered the six MRTTs in March 2014 to replace four veteran Boeing KC-135R Stratotankers in service with 112 Squadron and based at Changi since 2000.
Singapore’s MRTTs are based on the commercial A330-243, similar to the aircraft operated by the national lag carrier, Singapore Airlines. However, they are the first of what Airbus Defence and Space refers to as the New Standard Deinition coniguration, or ‘second wave’ of MRTTs, which feature several improvements over earlier aircraft, such as Australia’s KC-30A.
According to Airbus Defence and Space the New Standard Deinition coniguration is based on the latest production version of the commercial Airbus A330-200 airliner and includes structural and aerodynamic upgrade packages, an increase in maximum take-of weight and a light management system based on the current ‘Power 8’ computers. Mission equipment enhancements will include wideband satellite communications, an air-to-air refuelling capability upgrade, IFF Mode 5 and new mission computers, referred to by the company as the Tanker Integrated Mission System (TIMS).