In a move long anticipated by industry insiders, Indian’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced today that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will produce a radically modernised version of the 1950s-vintage Hawker Hunter jet fighter.
The original Hunter, a British design, first flew in 1951 and was widely exported. It proved popular with the Indian Air Force, which ordered the type in 1954. The Hunter’s proven airframe will provide a low-risk basis for the new design, the name of which will be ‘Langoor’ in air force service. The Langoor is intended to solve India’s fighter shortage with the minimum of cost and risk, while embracing the national ‘Make in India‘ initiative to develop indigenous weapon systems and technologies. The Swedish aero-company Saab, with its proven track record, will be the partner nation for the Langoor’s testing phase. Lessons learned from the painfully slow Tejas programme, and the mired MMRCA fighter acquirement will inform the project which is intended to emphasise modest and realisable goals. According to Parrikar, the type will enter service in 2022 and will offer reliability alongside operating costs 25% that of the Sukhoi Su-30, with a unit cost at least 70% lower than that of Tejas. The design will prioritise long range and ‘rugged’ reliability over high performance, and will feature proven systems to ensure a high level of combat effectiveness. Parrikar noted that “Mach 1.5+ performance is not necessary for the vast majority of combat missions, yet this requirement has until now dominated our search for future fighters. The use of heavily networked slower assets within a force that includes faster aircraft, like the Su-30, will prove more effective, far cheaper and will give the Indian Air Force what it most needs: larger, safer and more reliable forces. Langoor will be a game-changer.”
The Langoor will differ from the Hunter in many respects-
- The original engine Rolls-Royce Avon will be replaced by the Eurojet EJ200
- Sensors will include the Swedish PS-05/A radar
- New lightweight helmet cueing system
- Internal armament of one GSh-23-mm cannon
- New wing to be designed with BAE Systems
- Glass cockpit
- Weapons to include R-73 short range air-to-air missiles
India is expected to order between 250-400 aircraft. Most of the design work has been completed and a prototype is expected to fly in 2019, with service entry scheduled for 2022.
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