Press Release (ePRNews.com) - NEW DELHI, India - Jun 11, 2016 - The latest issue of Indian Military Review magazine says the present shortfall of nine fighter squadrons in the Indian Air Force (IAF) cannot be made up with additional Sukhoi-30MKI fighters of the yet-to-be finally cleared Tejas Light Combat Aircraft over the next 15 years.
Against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadron, the IAF today has only 33 and this number will drastically reduce with the proposed phasing out of three squadrons of MiG-21M in 2018, along with the two squadrons of MiG-27 UPG. In addition, another six squadrons of MiG-21 Bison will be out of service by 2022, writes Air Marshal Bharat Kumar, a former C-in-C of India’s Southern Air Command, in an article titled “Buying 36 Rafales Alone is No Solution”.
Of the current fleet, the legacy fighters – six squadrons of the Jaguar, three of the Mirage-2000 and three of MiG-29 – will last in service till 2030. However, it would be very difficult to sustain the Jaguar fleet as India is likely to be the only operator in the world after 2020 and the spares support is going to be problematic and costly, the article says.
Bharat Kumar has elaborated on how he thinks the shortfall will be made up. “Some of the shortfall will be met with the induction of additional Su-30 MKIs – their final number would go to 272 by 2020. However, what is worrying the operational planners is the low serviceability of the aircraft which is around just 53% instead of ideal 75%.”
Forty Tejas aircraft are on order and the first squadron of these is likely to be formed this year albeit with just four aircraft. This squadron is likely to be up to its unit establishment only by early 2018. With the production rate of around 16 aircraft per year, HAL is likely to complete the delivery of all 40 aircraft only by 2020. This would not be the end of Tejas. The IAF most probably would place orders for additional aircraft well before 2020 provided the aircraft gets its FOC and comes up to the IAF’s expectations.”
An order for 80 Tejas Mk1A – an improved version of the aircraft – is also likely to be placed. According to HAL, the prototype of Tejas-Mk1A will be ready by 2018, and the aircraft would have its Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) by 2020.”
The delivery of the 36 Rafale aircraft, which the IAF is contracting, would commence only in 2020 and completed by 2022.
Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft
Even if the co-development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircrfat with Russia takes place the aircraft’s induction is unlikely to commence before 2020 and will take at least another 4-5 years till all the aircrafts are in. On the other hand, if the unlikely route of joint development is taken, the induction is likely to be delayed by another 5-6 years.
Manufacture in India
Defence Minister Manohar Parikar has clearly spelt out how he intends to make up the combat aircraft inventory. He was very clear that India needs another imported fighter. Asked about the possibility of acquiring a second twin-engine fighter after the Rafale deal, Parrikar stated in an interview, published on 27 May, “I am not looking for assembling at all. I am looking for a company to join with Indian partner and to start manufacturing here by transfer of technology (ToT) in most of the items. I know that 100 per cent indigenization is not possible. Even with so many efforts, LCA has only around 40 per cent indigenization.”
Dassult had earlier offered to set up facilities for Rafale in India but it is not clear whether the offer still stands and whether it would transfer technology, which can be utilized by us for the AMCA and other indigenous aircraft.
Boeing has offered their hot-selling F/A-18 Super Hornets but these have not found many backers in India.
One of the more interesting offers is from Lockheed Martin for shifting their F-16 manufacturing line from the US to India.
In a newspaper article by Lockheed Martin India head Phil Shaw, he suggested that production of the F-16 in India could provide a major boost to India in its military-strategic competition with China and arch-rival Pakistan. The article claimed that India would derive “three potential benefits” from the Lockheed Martin deal.
A more interesting offer is from Saab for setting up a manufacturing their latest Gripen E. The Swedish defence major had first offered to manufacture its fifth generation Gripen fighter aircraft in India coupled with technology transfer in December 2015. The offer does not only call for setting up a base in India but also help in the development of aerospace capability for 100 years and partner in developing the next version of indigenous LCA Tejas.
Hakan Buskhe, President and CEO, Saab AB, said in a newspaper interview, on 16 February, that Saab was ready to develop, manufacture and undertake the final assembly of its fighter jet Gripen in India. “We could, with true ToT (transfer of technology), provide Indian Air Force with an Indian-built combat aircraft of the future, with technology of Gripen E (multi-role aircraft),” said Buskhe.
Interestingly, if India does go in for either F-16 or Grippen, it would have lesser logistics problem as the F-414 engine would be common to both these aircraft as well as Tejas and most probably AMCA.
Read the full article at https://goo.gl/UR1JdC
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