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Old 2nd February 2018, 11:11   #241
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Default Re: Combat Aircraft of the Indian Air Force

Not yet an aircraft, but interesting information on the topic of discussion.

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PART 1 OF THE INDIAN FUTURE WEAPONS SERIES

At one end of a sparsely lit chamber is a cluster of row desks with computer terminals. Most of the computer screens are off, tiny orange lights indicating they’re only hibernating in ‘power save’ mode. At least one terminal has a student in jeans slouched in front of it, two bottles of mineral water at his feet. It’s late, well after work hours. Not unusual for a college laboratory. Except, there’s nothing about this room that’s even remotely run-of-the-mill. A mess of wires disappears mysteriously into another room, darkened at this time of night. It is in a cleared out space behind the lone student working past midnight that the room’s chief occupant sits on a long brown table.

Coloured white and shaped tantalizingly like an arrow head is a rough aircraft model, quite clearly in the middle of a fabrication process. Parts of the model appear tacked together with tape. Students building aero-models is far from uncommon, especially at India’s most prestigious engineering school, but this white craft has more riding on it than anything the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur’s (IIT-K) famed aeronautical department has ever been entrusted with before. Within the six-foot frame of the model that sits on this table, and an identical metallic clone in a chamber a few hundred meters away, lies the future of India’s combat air power.



Codenamed SWiFT, short for stealth wing flying testbed, the aircraft is a technology demonstrator being designed and built in collaboration with the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a government military laboratory in Bengaluru. While the white model is used as a shaping test platform, the black fabricated metal clone of the SWiFT undergoes wind tunnel testing at IIT-K’s in-house facility. And no, these models aren’t just for show.

Top sources associated with the project have confirmed to Livefist that by the end of this year, a prototype SWiFT will be fitted with a Russian NPO Saturn 36MT turbofan engine (which currently powers the Nirbhay cruise missile) and launched on its first flight during the 2018-19 financial year. It will be the first major step in India’s effort to wield an stealthy unmanned aircraft built to fire precision weapons at designated targets in unfriendly airspace.

In the broadest sense, the Ghatak is intended to be an aircraft launched covertly near or over hostile territory, evading enemy sensors by virtue of its stealth, and destroying identified targets with air-to-ground weapons. In a broader sense, such stealth could also be used to gather electronic intelligence or covertly conduct airborne surveillance. Primarily though, the Ghatak is simply being developed as an unmanned bomber (A temporary working title even identified it as the Indian Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle or IUSAV).

In every conceivable sense, the SWiFT getting airborne will constitute a flight into the unknown — for the research team leading the effort at IIT-K, the clutch of government military laboratories under the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) that ‘handle’ the project, and not least, the Indian Air Force that will be its primary operator.

“The project is fully positioned as a futurustic platform. It draws very little from any existing technologies in the country,” an IIT-K student associated with the project told Livefist. “Everything we’re doing here is fundamental. And that is why it is so important.”

The research project at IIT-K is to receive at least $8 million towards proving the contours of the SWiFT. But this little aircraft being finetuned and tested by the aeronautical research task force at IIT-K, is essentially a miniaturised model of something much larger. When it enters flight testing before March next year, the SWiFT will begin proving technologies and parameters for an unmanned weaponised aircraft approximately eight times its size. The big final unmanned combat aircraft (UCAV) named Ghatak has a seven-year deadline to lift off. This holy grail of the entire effort is being spearheaded in Bengaluru by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), a consortium of government labs and agencies devoted to combat aircraft.



The Ghatak began as Project AURA (autonomous unmanned research aircraft), a program revealed first on this site in 2010. Classified and administered by a team of high level experts that reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office, it is easily the most significant current military aviation thrust anywhere in the country. The expert committee that oversees the Ghatak program is headed by Dr. R Chidambaram (Principal Scientific Advisor to the government), with former DRDO chief & current member of the Niti Aayog Dr. V K Saraswat and former ISRO chief Dr. K Radhakrishnan. Their report to the PMO in 2016 has been a blanket endorsement of the program, urging the government to support it in every way. An ‘in principle’ approval of the program is likely to yield full-fledged project status in the 2018-19 financial year.

In an exclusive interview to Livefist, DRDO chief Dr. S. Christopher made his first ever comments on the Ghatak and SWiFT programs.

“Nobody will share the technologies that go into Ghatak. And that’s the reason why we have committed to building every piece of technology that will make this a proven stealth unmanned combat aircraft,” Christopher told your correspondent in a phone interview from Bengaluru, where has just met with the project leadership. “Whatever beating we have got so far will be nullified. The day when technologies are denied, I can say I have my own.”

The ‘beating‘ Dr. Christopher refers to is two-fold. One, the steady stream of media and public criticism the DRDO has persistently come under for cost and time overruns on many of its projects, including the LCA Tejas light fighter. And two, the opportunistic technology denial regimes that have bedeviled several Indian homegrown military projects. The DRDO chief’s chagrin is based on the perceived hypocrisy of countries and governments that readily offer their aircraft and weapons for sale to India, but step back when it comes to sharing useful technologies for India’s indigenous weapons programs. India’s lucrative arms requirements have recently compelled countries to ‘sweeten’ arms packages with offers of high-end technology for projects like the Ghatak, though the government has decided that the stealth UCAV needs to be as Indian as possible — certainly all critical technologies.

While the SWiFT gets set for a first flight in a year, the bigger Ghatak is still a way off, with a first flight near impossible before 2024-25. As the IIT-K team works to finetune the SWiFT/Ghatak’s shape and contours — crucial to its stealth — the DRDO and ADA are working to do two things as quickly as possible: one, understand the study of radar signatures of such an aircraft, a science totally new to Indian aerospace scientists. And two, as crucial, finalise the jet engine that will power the Ghatak in its ultimate configuration.



Dr. Christopher has officially confirmed an exclusive Livefist report from a year ago, revealing plans underway to build a full scale model of the Ghatak for radar signature and electromagnetic signature testing at a facility in Hyderabad.

“We are in the process of making the 1:1 model so that we can prove our RCS reduction capability via shaping and materials. We’ve got five labs working on the material side, while the airframe is completed by ADA. And that is what we are physically making because shape is most important. Shaping is 70 per cent of the signature reduction process. We’ve got an Outdoor Radar Cross Section Test Measurement facility (ORANGE) in Hyderabad which will test the model,” Dr. Christopher said.

The Ghatak project is proceeding on what can only be described as a shoe-string budget for the moment. Finances began to flow into the project in 2016 through a ‘lead-in’ project sanction for “design of GHATAK and Development of Critical Advanced Technologies for GHATAK” valued at Rs 231 crore (about $37 million). More significant expenditure will ensue once the SWiFT/Ghatak move forward. Crucial to progress is choosing an engine for the Ghatak. As noted above, the SWiFT technology demonstrator will fly with a Russian mini-turbofan. The bigger Ghatak will need far more growl. And as Livefist reported, power will almost definitely be drawn from a variant of the indigenous Kaveri jet engine.



The Kaveri, developed originally for the LCA Tejas fighter project, has fallen famously short of expectations. However, a partnership with France’s SAFRAN as part of offsets from India’s multi-billion dollar deal for 36 Rafale fighters (Rafales are powered by Safran engines) has set down the modalities for a rescue mission that will save the Kaveri from oblivion, and dust it up for improved performance.

“We are almost at a final understanding with the IAF that we will use the Kaveri dry engine (i.e. non-afterburning). In the Kaveri that we have, we weren’t getting the power that we wanted. It started out with started with 80 kN and then 90 then 98 kNs. In a dry version for Ghatak, even 50 kN will be more than sufficient. We will be finalising that very shortly,” Dr. Christopher said.

In its 2015-16 annual report, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), a consortium of agencies leading the development of, among other things, India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, makes the first official mention of the Ghatak, correctly noting, “The UCAV aircraft and engine technology is highly classified and is unlikely that any country would share this technology with India. Hence it is inescapable requirement to develop an Indian UCAV and its engine considering the future combat warfare scenario. The development of an unmanned combat aircraft is a “national imperative” toward self reliance in aerospace technologies. The committee strongly recommended the sanction of the project at the earliest to be at par with other developed countries.”

So confident is the DRDO chief in his timelines, he hopes for his team to begin engaging the Indian Air Force in a conversation about orders in 2020. A senior IAF officer at the Air Headquarters told Livefist that the Ghatak was “very much in our perspective plans” and that “we are looking forward to discussing our support and taking forward the necessary requirements“.

The IAF is fighting a protracted battle to conserve combat squadron numbers, and is hoping that a slew of global tenders will help it build fighter aircraft numbers. While the government has openly committed to meeting the IAF’s needs on a timely basis, the reality inspires rather less confidence. In the near term, it’s the looming election season that will certainly push the pause button on any current due process to acquire new aircraft from abroad. In the medium term, apart from the 36 Rafale fighters that will begin arriving in 2019, the remainder of the IAF’s fighter needs are to be met under the aegis of the hugely complex Strategic Partnership (SP) model that envisages private sector production lines in India. Amidst this combination of uncertainties that swirl through the world of manned fighters in Indian skies, the Ghatak program offers at least some promise of rare long-term planning.

But the path ahead is also the most difficult. Building an unmanned stealth bomber will require the DRDO and its associated agencies to pull hard and away from other UCAV imaginations, variously including stated plans to unman the LCA Tejas itself, the intention to arm India’s Rustom/Tapas long endurance surveillance drone that’s currently in flight test, and, most recently, the push for Predator C/Avenger armed drones from the United States.

Dr Christopher adds, “The shape of Ghatak is totally dependent on us. The engine is totally dependent on what is requested by the IAF. We need to always come to an understanding on that as soon as possible. Otherwise there is always a debate and question on what we anticipated and what we gained.”

Asked about why the SWiFT program is under wraps, Dr Christopher smiles. “We don’t want to advertise it too much. It’s a technology demonstrator. You’re the first we’re talking about it to.”



The eagerness not to trumpet the program is understandable. The tussle between the DRDO and services is gratingly familiar too, and explains the DRDO chief’s anxiousness to freeze configurations on the Ghatak as quickly as possible. The DRDO’s LCA Tejas fighter has turned something of a corner and entered service with the Indian Air Force in 2016. But in its wake lies a painful litany of pitfalls that the DRDO is hoping to bridge.

The Ghatak effort is also the first independent effort by India to build an unmanned combat air platform. The headwinds such a project faces are singularly onerous. Quite apart from the fundamental stealth technologies that are being developed literally from scratch are the ambitious timelines the DRDO has set for itself despite a cautious approach to the Ghatak. The proof of the Ghatak will be in whether it is truly the low-observable aircraft it is intended to be, rather than just an interestingly shaped platform. Finally, the electronic wizardry that will bring together the the sensor-weapon loop to give the Ghatak its intended teeth is a steep climb. For one thing, the cautiousness at DRDO is underscored by an ironic abundance of confidence.

“One this is certain. We have to build and prove the Ghatak. It is the future. We have started well. And we will get there. Failure is not an option,” Dr. Christopher says.

India needs manned combat aircraft. Lots of them, and quickly. It’s the refrain you’ll unfailingly hear from military planners every year. As things stand, every single one of those requirements will be met by imported jets either built abroad, or manufactured under license in India. From single engine fighters for the Indian Air Force to twin engine carrier borne fighters for the Indian Navy to fifth generation fighter aircraft. It’s a busy, familiarly turbulent matrix of intrigue that continues to dog India’s quest for an elusive air power equilibrium. A turbulence buffeted by the pressures of budget, costing and, at the higher end, by the very paradigm of manned combat flight.

But if there’s some relief from this bustle, then the tiniest escape hatch into the future is nestled many hundreds of kilometers away from the power centers of Delhi — the outskirts of the dusty industrial hub of Kanpur, and the verdant suburbs of Bengaluru and Hyderabad, where a group of students, professors and the country’s top aerospace scientists are steeped in the sort of research that will — ultimately and hopefully — launch India into a new paradigm of air combat capability.


Last edited by mpksuhas : 2nd February 2018 at 11:13.
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Old 6th February 2018, 02:32   #242
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Default Re: Combat Aircraft of the Indian Air Force

The US air chief Gen David l Goldfein flew the Tejas jet along with Air Vice Marshal AP Singh.

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Old 9th February 2018, 02:27   #243
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Originally Posted by mpksuhas View Post
Not yet an aircraft, but interesting information on the topic of discussion.

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I definitely think there's merit to the idea that India invest heavily in the unmanned domain seeing as its probably what the future holds. India could leapfrog the whole 5th Gen boondoggle and go all in on an unmanned future..

For anyone looking to get an exhaustive and well researched look into the state of play of UAV's should devote a good hour to the link below:
http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone...t-air-vehicles

Anyway coming back to India, I can't begrudge the planners here. It's quite clear that a project like this deserves attention in terms of financial backing to truly make headway, but at the same time, just how much do you siphon off for the future when there are so many pressing needs today??
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Old 27th February 2018, 17:37   #244
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TL:DR - Indian defence acquisition is structured like a Monty Python sketch

Love this quote: "acquisition continues to languish at the altar of procedural delays". Splendid.
REF: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/defe...3?ndtv_related

Some bullet points:
RFP stage - 20 week permitted; 120 week actual
Evaluation stage - 30 week permitted; 90 week actual
Cost negotiating - 6 week permitted; 60 week actual

High scores: 273 weeks cost negotiating for a particular deal. I know Indians like to haggle but this is Olympic. Bravo

REF: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/lais...home-topscroll

I just can't help but almost be impressed at the incredulous numbers being posted here. Damning doesn't seem adequate. My personal favourite is that after any deal basically goes through all the fiery circus hoops on the Def Ministry side, it can land up at the Fin Ministry door where they shrug and ask for it to start all over. Gosh, it Really truly feels like a Python sketch (the hospital inspection comes to mind).

MODS - wasn't quite sure which of the defence forums to post this to, considering this indictment applies broad spectrum. Gah I'm so frustrated reading this all.
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Old 27th February 2018, 17:59   #245
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I am actually happy that a minister undertook the exercise to identify the issues with defence procurement process. While it is embarrassing to see such lackadaisical approach in such a crucial sector, at least someone seems to have done something to highlight the issues. Now lets hope the implementation is done with the same zeal.
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Old 27th February 2018, 19:20   #246
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Oh absolutely, it's a small reprieve that someone finally had it in them to just voice what's long needed to be said. Looking at the good doctor's background, he can somewhat be classified as a technocrat rather than a traditional politician. Thus it's not altogether surprising that he should be so logical in his assessment.
My worry is that with elections coming up, he's gone and rattled the hornets nest and the very bureaucrats he rails against are sharpening their knives.

I've long maintained that a tri services command authority, similar to the US Joint Chiefs might at the very least resolve the acquisition disparity between the individual services. There's too much of a disconnect and at least in terms of getting the kit they all need, out of the limited pie they have, best they decide jointly. Rotate the chairmanship of this body so that no one service dominates. With the multidimensional threat going forward on two fronts I honestly can't see why such a command authority has not yet implemented itself. Surely now more than ever, all 3/4 arms have to work in close concert under a prescriptive outline to deal with the threat posed by China and Pakistan and others. I guess in this regard, the command authority set up at Andamans will be an important incubator test. My only worry is that the merit of this is not made abundantly clear after the fact of a clash in that region.

Once again, even with this singular proposal, and the same holds for all the others stated, any reformer would be going up against the not inconsiderable institutional inertia that besets Indian govt (sure this probably is the case with any national bureaucracy).
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Old 27th February 2018, 22:53   #247
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LCA Tejas LSP-8 successfully completes Hot Refueling Trial

Inching close to the Final Operational Clearance (FOC), the Tejas completed a hot refueling trial followed by a sortie at HAL airport, Bengaluru yesterday. The system performance during the refueling session was in-line with design requirements and was satisfactory.

In the history of the Indian Air Force, LCA will be the first aircraft in the light weight category to fly with this unique capability of hot refueling.

Hot Refueling is a single point pressure refueling of the aircraft with the engine in operation. It is a process by which a fighter aircraft is refueled (in between sorties) while its engine is in operation, thereby cutting down the refueling time by half and turn-around time significantly. This capability is highly desired in combat situation which basically puts aside the need for the pilot to park the aircraft, power down and exit the cockpit for refueling to begin.

The aerial refueling probe for the LCA Tejas Limited Series Production-8 (LSP-8) is being supplied by UK based Cobham.

Combat Aircraft of the Indian Air Force-tejasifr.jpg

Last edited by PraNeel : 27th February 2018 at 23:15.
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Old 28th February 2018, 00:18   #248
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LCA Tejas LSP-8 successfully completes Hot Refueling Trial
]

Thanks, do you know what are the sort of technical modification required for hot refueling? Or aren't there any, only additional safety protocol observed?

I assume if a plane is capable for inflight refueling, (which is sort of the mother of all hot fueling), doing the same on the ground with the engine at idle should be straight forward?

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Old 28th February 2018, 11:00   #249
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Thanks, do you know what are the sort of technical modification required for hot refueling? Or aren't there any, only additional safety protocol observed?

I assume if a plane is capable for inflight refueling, (which is sort of the mother of all hot fueling), doing the same on the ground with the engine at idle should be straight forward?

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IMO it is the first step towards in flight refueling. The integration of IFR probe is itself a highly complex and technical process.
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Old 28th February 2018, 13:36   #250
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IMO it is the first step towards in flight refueling. The integration of IFR probe is itself a highly complex and technical process.
Yes, to my point, if a plane is equipped for IFR making it suitable to hot fueling on the ground should be fairly straight forward. They wouldn't be using the IFR probe on the ground I assume, but still all the plumbing and systems to receive a lot of fuel fast whith the engine running are already in place. Maybe it would require a different fuel inlet point from the regular one?

Does hot fuelling go faster than regular fuelling?

Are all these planes equipped with IFR or will there be version with no IFR but still hot fuelling capabillity?

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Old 5th March 2018, 09:54   #251
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Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
Thanks, do you know what are the sort of technical modification required for hot refueling? Or aren't there any, only additional safety protocol observed?

I assume if a plane is capable for inflight refueling, (which is sort of the mother of all hot fueling), doing the same on the ground with the engine at idle should be straight forward?

Jeroen
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You are right on two counts. Typically an aircraft which is IFR capable should have the plumbing to be hot refuelled. However it is not as simple as that. The point of filling will be different and will mostly have to be located behind the intake to avoid possible ingestion issues and for safety. The intakes also have to be covered while still allowing enough air through for idle power. Being A low bypass engine the cooling systems will also need ducted airflow to ensure that there is adequate cooling.

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Originally Posted by PraNeel View Post
IMO it is the first step towards in flight refueling. The integration of IFR probe is itself a highly complex and technical process.
Yes. And involves extensive plumbing changes especially in a tightly packed aircraft as the LCA which wasn't designed with this in mind. The CG and flight dynamics also change during the refuelling. Wake flying characteristics are a very important safety consideration. Considering the aircraft is controlled by the 4 channel FBW system the CLAW software would have to have been thoroughly reviewed and tested for compensating the issues with IFR.

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Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
Yes, to my point, if a plane is equipped for IFR making it suitable to hot fueling on the ground should be fairly straight forward. They wouldn't be using the IFR probe on the ground I assume, but still all the plumbing and systems to receive a lot of fuel fast whith the engine running are already in place. Maybe it would require a different fuel inlet point from the regular one?

Does hot fuelling go faster than regular fuelling?

Are all these planes equipped with IFR or will there be version with no IFR but still hot fuelling capabillity?

Thanks
Jeroen
Hot fuelling could be slower than regular fuelling as there is a delay to get the aircraft ready for fuelling. Static lines, engine intake cover, etc. have to be in place. What is important is that the pilot is in the cockpit and engine is running - two things that take up substantial time if the engine is cold. The pilot if he deplanes, will have to do pre flight routines if the aircraft has to fly again. The engine startup could take 15 minutes easily.
It is actually believe it or not more complicated than an in flight refuel mainly due to safety margins.
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Old 5th March 2018, 10:19   #252
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. The intakes also have to be covered while still allowing enough air through for idle power.. Static lines, engine intake cover, etc. have to be in place..

Somebody is brave enough to put a partial engine intake cover on a lit engine?

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Old 5th March 2018, 10:33   #253
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Somebody is brave enough to put a partial engine intake cover on a lit engine?

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Yep. But there are procedures for the same. The wheels also have to be chocked. I do remember reading about this a long time ago. Will have to look at my books or notes on this.
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Old 5th March 2018, 10:37   #254
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Yep. But there are procedures for the same. The wheels also have to be chocked. I do remember reading about this a long time ago. Will have to look at my books or notes on this.

Well, I would like to see them do it. Even at idle there is a substantial volume of air being sucked into a jet engine. Holding anything close to the intake is likely to get it sucked in. Even if you manage to get it into place, how would you remove it?

Do the math, a small surface with a small differential pressure across it will require a lot of force to keep it in its place. Be interesting to see how they do this.

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Old 5th March 2018, 11:04   #255
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Somebody is brave enough to put a partial engine intake cover on a lit engine?

Jeroen
Perhaps something like the Mig 29 which closes its intakes during take off to prevent FOD and uses slats instead?
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