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India VTOL mach2 fighter program...

In 2000, India had two aircrafts carriers "New Delhi" and "Bombay". But they also have three CVL with SeaHarriers on board. India starded to design is own light carrier, an Invicible class derivative (Great Britain gave the blueprints). As these carriers were cheap, India wanted no less than 7 of them (with 30 VTOL aircrafts on board), which means no less than 210 VTOL fighters. The country clearly indicated that he wanted to replace its subsonic Harriers by a Mach1.5+ fighter. Every country was invited to bid; cost and delays in development were not a problem. India really wanted this fighter, because they considered it as a strategic weapon. All practicable solutions to obtain a mach2 VTOL fighter were to be considered by the contenders. 
First was British Aerospace, which presented an upgraded Hawker 1216 project. This was a twin-boom, mach1.8 derivative of the Harrier. Then, Lockheed presented his JSF program, which used a horizontal fan and a mobile exhaust. Rockwell upgraded his revolutionnary XVF-12 study of 1977. Yak send his -141 fighter prototype. The most astonishing proposal was made by Dassault, who resurrected the Mirage III-V program, borrowing the 35 year old prototype to the Musée de l'air et de l'espace!! 
The EADS proposal was, too, astonishing : using V-22 Osprey flight data and experience, they studied an upgraded version of the "tilt-jet" VJ-101, tested in Germany in the 70's!! Now, the movements of the jets and stability of the aircraft were all controlled by computer and fly-by-wire. Two EJ-201 turbojets were mounted on the wingtips in pods.  
India was very satisfied, and said they will finance one prototype of each airplane, even if some concepts were risky (particularly Dassault and Rockwell…). But they mentionned the contenders must update their projects with the last technological advances available. This seems particularly logical concerning Rockwell and Dassault.  
So the French firm back to the VTOL mach2 fighter. The old Mirage III-V was used as basis. Of course, with 35 years of ehanced technologies, the plane was much updated. First, FBW system was adopted, to control the plane. The most astonishing evolution of the concept was due to progress in reaction engines. In 1965, the Mirage III-V needed 8 RB-162 turbojets engines to lift of. Combining turbofan with 35 years of engine improvement, SNECMA create a new lift engine, the M90. Size and weight were the same as it's RB-162 forerunner, but thrust augmented enormously : each engine had 6000 kgp of thrust. As the plane was 4 tons much lighter (it had a M53-P5 engine, with 11200kgp), only four engines were necessary, instead of 8!!!. More, this engine were turbofans, not turbojets : they use air, not hot gazes.  
As there was not enough room in a 2000, Dassault ingeneers found an idea : they used the 4000 airframe. One of the M53 was deleted, along with 30% of the fuel tanks. This let a big, empty room on the fuselage for the four lift-jets, and their own fuel. Two lift jets were behind the cockpit,; the others were side by side at the rear of the plane, behind the M53 engine. As in the III-V, they breathed by using air-intakes above the fuselage. The plane was much better than the III-V, and even reach Mach2.15, beating the unoficial record of the III-V (12th september 1966, mach 2.04). The plane was dubbed Mirage 4000-V. 
Others contenders were very busy, too : The Hawker P-1216 flew in a short period of time; it was because Hawker waited this moment for so many years… It was powered by a big RR RB-422 turbofan, with enormous thrust; as in the Harrier, four exhausts were located on the side on the plane. Two were for air driven from the front compressor; the two others were the engine exhausts.  
EADS manage to realise a prototype of its VJ-102, and it flew very well.  
Lockheed and Yak proposals have similar vectored exhaust at the rear of the plane; the main difference was behind the cockpit. To lift their plane, Yak technicians used two small turbojets; the americans use a big fan to drive the air below the aircraft.  
Rockwell fought heavily to demonstrate that his XVF-12 was a viable solution : for the first time, the prototype manage a VTOL take-off. But this plane was very complicated, and subject to failures…  
The six competitors were tested in Bangalore, and five take-offs and landings were made on the "Bombay" by Indians pilots. Rockwell, Dassault and EADS planes were eliminated (albeit they had very good performances) because judged too risky. The final opposed the Yak-41, Hawker P-1216 and Lockheed F-35. The Lockheed was eliminated for political reasons, but also because it was more an attack plane than a real interceptor. So, Hawker and Yak were now ennemies… and the P-1216 was selected, as its remind the Harrier. India was very keen of the JumpJet, and happy that Hawker could give it a supersonic and more practical successor. This was also Hawker's revenge after the P-1154 cancellation in 1965… 
 

 

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Modifié en dernier lieu le 24.02.2006
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