SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.

— Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Indian Navy Chief

My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

Lockheed Martin F-16IN - Experience It, First-Hand

Issue: 05-2009By Orville Prins Vice President, Business Development, Lockheed Martin, IndiaIllustration(s): By Orville_Prins.jpg

Delineating the strike role capabilities Of the F-16IN Super Viper

A strike fighter is a fighter aircraft that is capable of attacking both air and surface targets. It differs from an attack aircraft in that the strike fighter is also a capable air combat fighter. The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) tender for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme calls for a strike fighter to replace aged aircraft and improve the combat effectiveness of the IAF fighter force structure. The F-16IN Super Viper meets or exceeds the challenging strike fighter requirements, delivered within a timely, low-risk programme tuned for India’s defence industry. The Super Viper is the ultimate Fourth Generation fighter, melding advanced Fifth Generation capabilities with the F-16’s combat-proven performance, reliability and maintainability.

Simulating a Fight
Imagine yourself as a Wing Commander preparing to lead a strike fighter mission. Your target: a weapons depot deep inside enemy territory. The ability to reach the full set of enemy target areas is crucial to success of any air campaign. The F-16IN meets and exceeds all MMRCA radius of action and loiter time requirements, ensuring that you can put any enemy target at risk. Learning that the target is guarded by modern surface and air threats, you commence preparations at your computer-based Mission Planning System with the confidence that the F-16IN Super Viper—custom designed for the IAF and its missions—is the fighter for any challenge. All the data is there at your fingertips to optimise this mission.

Using a predicted Electronic Order of Battle (EOB), digital maps of the terrain, and key intelligence data, you quickly determine the flight route to and from the target. Your mission data is shared across a network with your squadron mates and soon all routes for the multiple fighters in the strike package are optimised and coordinated. Synthetic imagery and maps, predicting what each pilot expects to encounter during the mission, are created and reviewed. Now it is time to go attack and destroy the target!

Pre-flight preparation of the F-16IN Super Viper is rapidly accomplished, even though your strike fighter is configured with two precision guided stand-off weapons, a full set of close-in and beyond line-of-sight air-to-air missiles for self-defence, and a full set of external tanks. All weapons and pre-flight gauges are easy to see and there is no need for maintenance ladders or stands. The mission planning data you have prepared is automatically loaded into the advanced mission computer via the cockpit receptacle.

Inside The Cockpit
Control of the agile F-16IN Super Viper fighter is with your right hand on the side-stick controller. There is no cumbersome stick in the middle of the cockpit blocking your view of the displays. Powering up the cockpit, you have an unobstructed view of the fully integrated cockpit displays. Each of the three main 12.7 x 17.8 cm full colour displays is fully programmable, reflecting selections you made during your mission planning. For every system, weapon, and sensor there is a preset mode of your choosing. Vital for today’s attack is the all-in-one Tactical Situation Display (TSD) you have configured on the centre display.

After take-off, you settle into the seat optimised for fighter combat and concentrate on the mission. This mission will be flown at low altitude—too low for aerial refueling—but the high fuel-to-weight ratio of the F-16IN design provides plenty of range to fly your pre-planned mission route and navigate through any unforeseen diversions. As you penetrate enemy airspace, you are flying at 30 m altitude, on auto-pilot, using radar terrain following backed up with a passive digital terrain database. Nap of the Earth flight at 480 knots—nearly 900 km/hour!

The field-proven Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar scans the flight corridor in front of you to detect terrain and obstacles like radio masts that may not have been in your pre-mission database. While conducting terrain following, the AESA radar is also scanning the sky for threat fighters. Only a few airborne contacts so far, over 100 km out. Viewing your TSD, you see that these contacts appear to be orbiting overhead an enemy air base. An exchange of data link symbols lets you confirm the other fighters in your strike mission have also detected the contacts.

Face-To-Face With the Enemy
Soon you encounter the first of the enemy air defence concentrations. You visualise the pre-mission threat locations on the TSD in yellow, with rings indicated their lethal range. Your planned flight route weaves in, around, and through them. Your digital integrated electronic warfare system (EWS) is listening for any enemy radar or laser emissions, programmed especially for this mission and these threats.

The noise in your headset alerts you. A surface-to-air missile battery has activated its radar, attempting to lock-on to your strike fighter. The radar cross section of your F-16IN Super Viper is small, and its single high-bypass turbofan engine produces less heat than a twin-engine fighter. Hence, it is extremely difficult for the threat to track your strike fighter deftly and safely flying this low and in the clutter. The EWS detects and identifies a new threat and locates its position. It is not in any of the pre-mission locations and your planned route of flight is taking you toward the newly detected threat. Using your hands-on-throttle-and-stick controls, you alter your route of flight by selecting the nearest steerpoint of your navigation route and drag the point out of the lethality ring of this new threat.

Satisfied that your mission route now goes around the popup threat, you accept the new point and it is computed into the overall mission flight plan. You feel the fighter accelerate as the auto-throttle voluntarily adjusts groundspeed to maintain your pre-mission time on target. You designate the new steerpoint for transmission via datalink so that other members of the strike package will know your route has been modified.

The EWS is not jamming the threat, there is no need now, but you have deployed your towed decoy just in case there is no warning the next time a threat pops-up. Flying this low the threat rings on the display are showing a lot of terrain masking, and as you approach the target area the masking of your path from threat radars is the best it can be. But you lose that masking for a short while as you start a quick climb to gain line of sight to the target and obtain a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) map. The threat radars reach out to find you.

You take evasive action and dive back down in the weeds. You are grateful for the easy handling Super Viper, even with this heavy external load (the F-16IN can carry over 60 per cent more external load than the MMRCA requirement) it responds as a fighter should. You examine the ultra high resolution SAR map you obtained during your pop-up manoeuvre. Your aimpoints stand out clearly.