The Broadsword community MMRCA selection - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 21 August 2009

The Broadsword community MMRCA selection

Photo: A cutaway of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This aircraft is not in contention in India's MMRCA tender.

Many visitors to Broadsword have expressed strong views on the ongoing selection process for India’s proposed Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). But do we really need an MMRCA and, if so, what kind?

Let’s examine this 11 billion dollar question on Broadsword, based not upon gut reactions but on a cold assessment of our needs and our means.

I invite visitors to post on this subject. Let’s break down the decision-making into the following heads:

How many squadrons does the Indian Air Force (IAF) need?

In October 1962, the Government of India sanctioned 45 squadrons for the IAF, which was later stepped up to 65 squadrons (both these included transport and air observation squadrons). An expert committee later suggested that the IAF needed 39.5 combat squadrons.

Given our operational requirements (which need to be quantified), and the strength of our likely adversaries, what is our reasonable requirement of combat squadrons?

Force multiplication

To what extent would the introduction of force multipliers --- e.g. AWACS, network-centricity, satellite surveillance, etc --- reduce our requirement of squadrons? Please quantify.

Light, Medium and Heavy fighters

How should this total requirement be broken down into light, medium and heavy combat aircraft? After breaking down the requirement, calculate (squadron by squadron) obsolescence schedules and when aircraft of a squadron must be phased out. That will give you a chronological map of when you need different types of aircraft.

Fleet structure and types

What would be the best mix of aircraft that would allow commonality of parts (and hence ease of backup and servicing); interoperability; and operational flexibility.


Give your inputs. Everyone's ideas are completely valid.


  1. Before we get down to kknow what we want we shud know what we would be hvin by 2015.
    heres an assessment-(numbers may not be completely accurate)

    Mig 21 -
    current-around 240~ units;
    some r upgraded while some discontinued and some are arond four decade old
    by 2015- 180~

    Mig 29- 50~ units;
    supposed to be upgraded soon
    by 2015- all 50~ shud be operational

    Sukhoi 30MKI- 98~ units
    best in the busssiness in the south asia to southeast asia region;
    some partial upgrades are on
    by 2015- more than 200~ units shud be operational

    Now if we go by above assessment it means India will be having not more 250~ units of atleast 4th gen. planes operational by 2015 wheras our neihgbours particularly china may have somewhere around atleast 1200 4th gen & higher planes(more planes are added each year) and pakistan shud hv around 200+ . remember the AWEC's we talk about are to be inducted by India and all hvnt been inducted.
    So my gut feeling is we need a atleast three supply lines of aircraft each deliverin around 200+ planes opeartional by 2015 if India has to be operational ready along with inducting AWEcs and tankers and transport planes.
    So MMRCA shud be finalissed as quickly as possible.
    The LCA project has suferred huge delays and we cant just wait for it.
    We need to think, think fast and make fast decisions or else !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Keeping in mind China's capabilties we need ATLEAST 1000 fighter aircraft.Then again if we desire to play an even larger role in global security even that number may not be enough.Let us also not forget that Pakistan will always be a threat on our Western flanks.

    600 LCA's
    250 Su-30's
    150 MRCA's
    200 UAV/UCAV

  3. Time to resurrect the Mig 1.44

  4. Here are my comments -

    Part 1 - I bitch about the problem.

    Part 2 - Probable solution.

    Part 3 - Combat aircraft inventory

    Part 1-
    India seems to be at least 10 years behind China in building complex indigenous systems and the gap seems to be widening all the time.

    If i was a Chinese planner, i would want to chip India's bud before it blossoms especially if they see depression like event in the US.

    IMO, in the next war -
    1] Russia will remain neutral and possibly lead peace efforts. But they will not be able to force a peace accord unless 'both' sides want to sit at the table.
    3] Europe will make some noise. Probably impose some 'sanctions' on China.
    2] Chinese and Pakis know that the Indians will never use nukes.
    3] China with Pakistan's help will make every attempt to break the Indian union. China will not want to leave a wounded animal that could turn into a tiger.
    4] The war will not be as short as the previous one.

    We are told "India's 'indigenous' fighter program is behind schedule because of US sanctions". Has the word indigenous lost its meaning? Dissect existing systems if needed but get a truly 'indigenous' plane in the air.

    Part 2 -

    The only way out is reorganizing the govt owned defense industry.
    Privatize the defense industry! Have strict controls on who the private industries deal with but let there be competition.
    Or India can buy 200+ MRCAs and and hope the Chinese will look the other way. We cannot complete with China by buying stuff. There will be economic downturns in the future which will make this kind of purchase programs almost impossible.

    Part 3- Aircraft inventory

    Until our private industry matures (10+ years?), India has to arm itself with systems that will make China think twice. Dump the MRCA program and get some F35s, or include F35 in MRCA.

    Do we really need MRCA if LCA can be equipped with AESA? Invest time and effort to improve LCA 'indigenous' efforts. Produce more MKIs.

    Acquire FGFA when its ready but don't wait for it!

    Assume all Mig21s are gone and LCA is a fight worthy. Mainly Russian weapons on Paki border. Western weapons on Chinese border.

    In 2015, if war is imposed, India will be fighting a battle of attrition. Thanks to all those who didn't ask the right questions during the last 30 years.

    Paki border - (29 sqdns)
    160MKI - 8 sqdns
    240 LCA - 12 sqdns
    Mig 27s - 100 - 5 sqdns
    50 MIG 29s - 4 sqdns

    China front - ( 37 sqdns )
    100 F35 or 240 LCA - 5 to 12 sqdns
    160 LCA - 8 sqdns
    200 30MKI - 10 sqdns
    100 Jaguars - 5 sqdns
    40 Mirage - 2 sqdns

    IAF will need at least 60 combat sqdns.

    Force multipliers -
    All the three countries will have some kind of AWACS. 3 on Paki Border and 6 on Chinese border.

    Netcentric and satellites capability might help India against Pakistan but i bet China will has its own. China has proven satellite killing ability.


  5. Hi folks,
    We don't need wild figures pulled out of your hats! 1000 fighters; "at least 60 squadrons"; that's not how defence planning is done. Have you ever wondered how such a precise figure as 39.5 squadrons was arrived at?
    So kindly justify the projections that you make. Tot up how many aircraft China can get operational on the Tibetan plateau; how many aircraft India will need for ground support and interdiction tasks; etc. And JUSTIFY all your projections with real figures. The figures are all available on the internet.
    Any dimwit can criticise India's defence planners. But, apparently, when it becomes time for you to do the defence planning, you're as vague and "in the air" as they are.
    Let's have some real figures.

  6. true, ajai

    everyone know that indian air force is not that big even some smaller countries have larger airfroces e.g israel,turkey,athens

    even our govt doesn't care about this and will never do

  7. This business of Medium fighter has been used to give some dignity to the demise of LCA Mark-1. Mark-2is far away.

    If Su-30MKI plays the heavy role then only Gripen & F-16 can play the light role. The difficulty is that IAF may be learning that Two engines offer greater verstality with only limited increase in costs.

    MMRCA basically was a requirement for import of Mirage 2000 when both LCA (and yes even) Su-30MKI was giving problems.

    Now MMRCA has no relevance. We should simply assemble more Su-30MKIs with Israeli radars.

    The only relevance of MMRCA would be, if the contract goes to Europeans and we use the contract to develop Pvt sector (by giving them job of assembling and absorbing tech of MMRCA)and leveraging contract of MMRCA for developing MCA & UCAV.

  8. This source says China has about 2000 combat aircraft. I would assume they will deploy at least half of them near the Tibetan front.

    China has about 2 Trillion dollars in reserves. India has 1/8th that amount. Do we really believe that Russia just sold just 200 SU30XX to China?
    China has a very good habit about not publicizing their success until goals are achieved.
    I hope the Indian military planners are not using Google to come up with Chinese Air force levels.
    China's official military spending is 50Bln a year. Unofficial estimates put the number north of 100B. India's military budget is about 20B.
    Who knows how many J10/11s China is producing in an year?

    Pakistan will receive 300 new aircraft by 2015. By 2015, their force levels will be close to 600 plus. Plus they usually get goodies from UAE, and Saudis during war time.

    That's about 1500 aircraft we will have to deal with. Sorry, i don't have the resources to pin point the exact number.

    "how such a precise figure as 39.5 squadrons was arrived at"
    It would be very helpful if you can post how our defense planners came up with that number. Do our military planners assume Russian or US intervention in case of war with China?

    "Any dimwit can criticise India's defence planners."
    Sure. Why isn't India trying to solve a problem that even a dimwit can recognize? What is that will stop us from discussing Indian Air Force force levels in 2020 say five years from now?


  9. Seeing current speed of acquisition process i guess it will take some 5 years to complete the whole process. I am hopeful that in the mean-time reengining & restructuring of LCA will be completed & our goi will also do it's best to land first MMRCA in between 2014-15.So, after 2015 IAF will start process to induct some 350-400 MMRCA & LCA MK2. But,due to indian industry's traditional slow delivery process i doubt about the numbers of new inducted combat aircrafts(both LCA & MMRCA)before 2020 which i guess less than 100.

  10. So, between 2015 to 2020 our whole AF will be based on 230 su-30mki(4.5 gen. fighter),60 mig-29+40 mirage-2000(improved 4th gen. fighter)& 80 mig-27+80 jaguar(improved 3 gen. fighter)=490~500 combat fightable aircraft.
    So, there will be a total shortage of 120~200 ac.(500+100 new inducted) from sanctioned streanth.I think this shortage will be covered by acquiring some 100 FGA/F-35s &
    ADA's future MCA is for filling the gap between 4.5 gen. & 5th gen. fighter.

  11. Well Ajai Sir, I believe you started this post with a good intenion and looking for expert opinion, but i don't see many experts are commenting here, nor the one's commenting are taking any time or research to put forward the figures.

    Well, it's true for several reasons I can blame my self on the same lines for not taking the time right now, but could not stop myself from putting forward this comment looking at the way it is going.

    No offense on anyone posting views, because it does show you are concerned, but the objective of this particular post and against which the same the opinion voiced is completely vague.

    Even if it is titbits please come up with one liners at least that may be after two to three posts by different people can be combined and a proper picture can be arrived at.

    Most of the information is available on this bog itself , while the author of the blog will come up with a conclusion the intention of the blog is to get more information (proper) and then post views opinion based on the same.

    Remember this is not the Age of Empires or any video game played here.

    It's a genuine attempt to see the knowledge the blog readers ( apart from viewing good pictures) in a procurement where our countries interests depends on.

    Again it's wonderful that people have a view and shows concern on the state of affairs , but we are part of it and if the views posted does not even reflect the true intention of the post then it can only show ignorance.

    Let's not give way to that , let's show a better understanding.

  12. Go ahead and buy the cheapest one. Reason, whatever ToT India gets, we just don't have the capability nor the infrastructure to assimilate them.

    If Late Combat Aircraft takes another 20 years to fly, we should buy the cheapest Gripen/Mig 35 to replace the fictional LCA squadrons.

    Acc. to latest news, PAK FA is going to take another 10 years to go into production(Assume FGFA to be 20 years down the line). So the entire onus of clearing the skies would be on MKIs. To don the strike role, buy the flying brick F18 or the decent bomber Rafale.

    Bottom line, it would be foolish to count phantom squadrons of Late Combat Aircraft or MCA. We just can't even reverse engineer a jet engine or an MMR.

  13. OK, let's try to figure out how many new 4th generation aircraft China might have by 2015 based on 'internet' sources.

    It looks like they can make 33 J10s ( IAI Lavi variants)per year starting 2004 (They produced 100 between 2004 and 2006).

    By 2015 they would have ramped up that production of J10. Let's not include the ramped up rate but instead use a conservative number of J10s (33 * 11 =) 350 by 2015.

    By May 2007 they had 2 sqdns of J11B (4.5 generation improved SU 27SK).

    Another example on how the Chinese hide information - " In May, 2007, the existence of J-11B was finally acknowledged by the Chinese government for the first time when the state-run Chinese TV stations first aired the report on J-11B in PLAAF service. However, the official Chinese report claims that there are only two squadrons of J-11Bs in service, instead of a regiment, which is consisted of three squadrons (as of end of 2007). "

    They acknowledged the existence of J11B after two/three squadrons were produced!!!

    Let's say they can produce J11Bs at the lesser rate then the J10s, say 22 a year. They should have 220 of those by 2015 (don't include possible ramping up of production).

    And yes they are developing a stealth fighter (j-xx) with Russian help. The title says 4th generation but the description is that of a 5th gen aircraft.
    "Russian Sukhoi Company (JSC), which has developed close ties with Shenyang over the licensed co-production of its Su-27SK fighter as J-11, has been reportedly working with Shenyang in developing the next-generation fighter technology and sub-systems" JXX is supposed to be ready by 2015 in line with PAK FA (surprise surprise) but i guess before FGFA.

    That's 600 Js + 273 JSU27/30MKK (2004 figure). That's about 900 new aircraft by 2015 on the chinese 'public' broadcast channel. Is that the real number? The real Chinese military spending is twice the official number.


  14. If China ever attacks India, it will be when they match US Pacific command equipment by equipment in strength. Until then, they will build stuffs and hide. All India has to do to avoid confrontation is make sure that the sum of pacific command and Indian force exceeds Chinese power and could destroy chinese capability to continue war. Though US may not jump into the war the presence of a formidable nemy will deter China from any major offensive.

  15. "it will be when they match US Pacific command equipment by equipment in strength"

    Is that what happened in 1962?

    Even if US wants to help, would any country in the Pacific allow US to launch attack against China from their country? No Way!

    Will India allow US troops on Indian soil if China attacked Taiwan?

    There is a growing movement in the US that wishes to pursue a non intervention policy. It goes with the "Live within your means" slogan that is sweeping America.

    China will be at India's throat once Taiwan is settled, and they will settle Taiwan irrepsective of who likes it.

    Prepare to put up a fair fight, or else give up Arunachal and buy peace for a few decades.


  16. Buy as many as you can,as one poster mentioned, and the cheapest.
    I dont think IAF will save India in a future war with the Pakis, or chinkis, I have a feeling, the chinks and pakis have been abetting groups for the slow disintegration of India.
    Although India produces N number of engineers none of them can seem to make a jet engine, that tells something about the nature of education. No matter what, it does seem Gandhi did make a mistake. Hopefully history proves otherwise.


  17. Indian engineers are good.

    A good mid level engineer can earn 20 laks writing some trading system, or developing user interface. How much does a DRDO job pay? Privatization will help.

    My friend's father was one of the top guys at ADA. He made out like a bandit. I doubt he was the only one not giving 100% to the cause.

    Prioritize handful of projects, fund, and finish them 'completely'. Any dimwit project manager will make that a top priority.

    Newspapers should beat the story of India's security threat to death. A sense of urgency has to be established.

  18. @Anon above me

    It's not Indian engineers are bad. The same Indian engineers in the hands of NASA and other US military programs build top notch systems. It's not brain or money. It's the entire system that's rotten to the core.

    Bring the same NRI engineers and pay them in USDs, mark my words, they won't build a screw in their lifetime here. It would again become the story of a garland in the hands of a monkey(Babus who run the country).

    I see this, fifty years down the line, GTRE still wouldn't have dissected the RD-33 and observed how it works.

  19. To, anonymous at 1:05 -some details about chinese acquired sukhoi :
    China acquired1st batch of 27 su-27 fighters(21 su-27SK & 6 su-27UBK) in 1992.5 of those sukhois were lost in 1998's typhoon.2nd batch of 22 su-27 fighters(16 su-27SK & 6 su-27UBK) were acquired in 1995.3rd batch of 28 su-27UBK were acquired in 1991.In 1996 a aggrement worth $ 2.5 billion was signed to produce 200 J-11 which is the licensed copy of su-27SK. In November,2004 russian media reported that J-11 production had stopped after about 100 examples delivered to PLAAF.

  20. The 1st batch of 38 su-30MKK fighters were splited between wuhu basedd PLAAF 3rd division(19) & PLAAF flight test & training center(19). 2nd batch of 38 su-30MKK were orderered in 2001,3rd batch of 24 su-30MKK2 naval fighters were ordered in 2002.Among them at least1 lost.
    So,present figure of acquired su fighters is as follows:
    22+22+28+38+37+24+100= 271.

  21. Hi Abhinav,

    That's true, China asked Russia to stop delivery of J11 kits after they broke the Su27 control codes.

    However they still kept importing Russian engines for J10( IAI Lavi), J11 ( SU 27 copy) , and J11B (Improved Su27).

  22. Great.........boy, this is gonna be some exercize.......even the IAF would take weeks/months to get something sensible into place. Challo, lets put our heads down and do some armchair working................

    In the meantime........have heard the following thru the Grapevine.................

    (a) Hawk programme is in big (?) the 25 (1 crashed), so 24 BAe Hawks...there are serious spare parts issues/grounding some of them; this is going to get worse next year; The 10 HAL assembled/built Hawks due in Mar 09, were delayed to Sept 09 are now furthur delayed...........
    (b) Mig 29 upgrade programme also delayed...Radar issues/advance paid used elsewhere (??)/at least 6 months...affecting the total programme by 2 years ???

    (c) Despite Israel really pushing hard for the Gripen........F-18 is going to win the day. US really pushing hard/early and quicker deliveries/offsets/training in US etc....and, now, something called the best 'Green Technology' (???)

    any comments.......specially on the Hawk's issue...since it would directly impact the Jaguar re-engine programme/ and also, the chance of the Eurofighter.

    Will come to you on the projected IAF........

  23. Despite Israel really pushing hard for the Gripen........F-18 is going to win the day. US really pushing hard/early and quicker deliveries/offsets/training in US etc....and, now, something called the best 'Green Technology' (???)
    not only US everyone else doing it too

  24. Mig 29 upgrade programme also delayed...Radar issues/advance paid used elsewhere (??)/at least 6 months...affecting the total programme by 2 years ???

    india has not yet decided which avionics going to be used on mig29 upgrade and this delayed the whole process by 8 months

  25. The threat from China in my opinion is vastly overated. While nationalist websites may say whatever, those in the loop know that both India and China despite all the postures don't have a lot of tangible disputes. Tawang certainly(I mention this because it is populated unlike the other contentious areas), the rest has no strategic or economic value. While national pride on both sides, may lead to drumbeating of all sorts, the decision-makers of both countries are fortunately far more level headed(and that's without going into the nuclear reasons against war).

    That said, the Chinese have the resources to mount limited incursions but nothing further. They have(correct me if I'm wrong) just four airbases in all of Tibet. Incursion through passes in the mountains is a far too risky a move to be taken seriously. An invasion via Myanmar is probably more effective except that same as the Tibet option, logistics will be a nightmare. Not to mention, armored support is very unlikely. The IAF's current strength in the NE is more than sufficient for the near future.

    China on the other hand has significant threats of its own. They fought a war with the USSR in the past and while the issues were later resolved, prudence still dictates that strength be maintained. That leaves Japan and Taiwan both supported militarily by the US. And both requiring

    With regard to Pakistan, while the IAF is phasing out MiGs, the PAF with their limited resources don't have the same freedom. They still manage and will be managing for quite a while with their Mirage III/Vs and F-7s. Again the IAF is more than equipped despite recent noises to handle that threat.

    The biggest problem facing the IAF in my opinion is excessive diversification in the fleet. While most NATO countries are trying to limit their fighter to two or three types we're flying the MiG-21, MiG-27, Jaguar, Sea Harrier, Mirage 2000, MiG-29, Su-30MKI and will soon be inducting the Tejas and the aircraft awarded the MRCA contract. That's nine types and that many times the logistical headache.

    In my opinion, scrap the MRCA and go for the F-35 2015 onwards for all three arms. Force multipliers like the MKI and Phalcon(more of which are needed)will suffice until then. Also, they are far too many hole in the IAF's missile air defences. That needs to be a bigger priority than the MRCA. The FGFA will probably be acquired, but let everyone who's looking forward to a F-22, prepare themselves for disappointment. The Americans have been working on stealth aircraft since the seventies. They've RETIRED a stealth aircraft from active duty. Don't expect miracles from Russia. The US spend 10 times as much as the Russians do on defence and an even larger multiple on research.

  26. Vivek

    Exactly that's what Nehru did. Underestimating the chinkis and get his a$$ kicked. We don't want such a thing happen ever again.

    For some background reading on our preparedness at that time...

    Indian military should have a single motto, "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best". Period.

    The next war with China won't be with China alone. It would be the combined militaries of Chinki and Pakisatan. If MKIs start manning the west china skies, we need MIG29 and other A2A fighters up over Pak to take down whatever JF variant pukis have.

  27. Hi, To Anon 17.32. Agreed on both points, but (the inevitable 'but'),

    On point (a) Can the others do it ?? Boeing produces 42 F-18/year for USN, which it seems is willing to divert some a/c to the IAF so that all 18 a/c to be procured directly can be delivered in just 12-18 mths (which the others cannot match); also, on training, there is talk of being able to train much quicker than others/also, rumour that few older f-18's may be sent to india for training crews in local conditions, and once the IAF inventory builds up these would be taken back (like the su30 deal).

    On point (b) all specs, specially avionics, were frozen when the Deal was signed.....especially the radar, which seems to be cause of the delay.


  28. Here is an informative/ analytical post from an ex-IAF pilot regarding the no. of squadrons actually needed -

  29. this article explains how inter-interoperability is an problem with our forces and "each of the services is focused on winning wars – alone" giving rise to dumb acquisition process -

  30. anon @ 16.59
    Sorry to say the airman makes no attempt to calculate the number. He has some very good points on how India should stop bragging about every defense product they make or purchase. However, he seems to indicate lowering the number of sqdns because the pay scale at the IAF makes it impossible to attract and retain talent! He then goes on about how the IAF lost out to Navy and Army( "It lost the maritime reconnaissance role to the Navy in the 1970s and the combat helicopters to the Army").
    It appears no one wants to question how the 39.5 sqdn came into existence. We do not need a detailed report, but list out major assumptions made in India's favor.
    e.g Do we assume US or Russian intervention when China invades? Do we assume that not both China and Pakis will coordinate their attack?
    Again, the only analysis made by the aviator on China policy is "India’s political and military establishment needs to review long held opinions and viewpoints vis-à-vis China". Which i think is a given.

  31. He also makes good points about interoperability within the forces, which should be a top priority.


  32. Hi Vivek,
    " both India and China despite all the postures don't have a lot of tangible disputes"
    If that were the case, why would China want to arm Pakistan with nuclear missiles that can reach every major Indian city?

    "While nationalist websites may say whatever"
    Chinese nationalist sites had no clue about China's ability to shoot down satellites. In India, we would have announced the existence and capabilities of that project 20 years before the project executed. Second, was the surprise release of J11B sqdn strengths last year. It is not as if they are spending 5 times India's defense budget, and second only to US and not doing anything.

    "They have(correct me if I'm wrong) just four airbases in all of Tibet. "
    4 air force bases is a lot. The J11s (SU 27 derivatives) have a range of 2500 miles.

    "the PAF with their limited resources don't have the same freedom."
    They are buying 250-300 aircraft (JF/Js) from China by 2015. They upgraded their older F16s and bought new block 52s.

  33. "have a range of 2500 miles"

    Sorry for the typo. That a range is 2500KMs.

  34. "4 air force bases is a lot"

    I'm assuming each air force base can operate at least 100 aircraft.

  35. replace all mig 21/23/27 with lca
    lca can do pt defence, a2a, a2g.
    230 mki+ 40 mirage + 40 mig29 + 240 lca. and prob 72 fgfa

  36. We cannot win the number game with China but what we can do is what we have done in the past is to maintain a technological edge over China. China is still a few decades from matching the best of western tech. We should not hesitate from seeking the best of the systems available internationally.
    We don't need a mosaic of light, medium and heavy jets. Even the superpowers usually maintain just two types(eg F16/15). Most other nations have their modernization program centered around a single type (eg Rafale for France, EF for GB,Germany).
    A nation of India's size does not need a light type. LCA is a hangover from the past, its time was elapsed when Su-30 became the center of IAF modernization. MMRCA will take over the baton from Su-30 in 2014-15. Its production will continue untill Gen 5 comes along, hopefully by 2020. There is no point in fixing the number of squadrons as it takes 30 years to build an AF but threat level changes every few years. The best the govt can do is to ensure planned and continued modernization and not an ad hock stop and start one.

  37. "We cannot win the number game with China"

    Why not? India cannot if it continues to buy stuff instead of developing.

    "China is still a few decades from matching the best of western tech"
    What happens after few decades?

    Scrap MRCA. Let ADA/GTRE swim or die.

  38. Let ADA/GTRE swim or die.

    Are you freaking serious? GTRE... ?

    GTRE should have been hanged, drawn and quartered long time ago....

  39. Coming to the first question posted
    How many squadrons does the Indian Air Force (IAF) need?

    I think our operational doctrine should involve combating a threat of China and Pakistan simultaneously

    How unlikely is it that in a full fledged war with China, Pakistan will not join. I am not sure about the answer for that question. However, it seems a worst case scenario for India given the current political situation and we should be prepared for it

    I am trying to figure out how is the squadron strength determined,it cannot be based entirely on strength of the enemy in that case we cannot have a fixed squadron strength for such a long period of time
    does anyone have any inputs on the same

  40. Hi, This really did take time !! Assumptions are :

    (a) Potential threats: China and Pakistan;
    (b) Parameters: what is already available; what has to be retired; what can be procured; what can be built locally.
    (c) Timeframe: Phase 1 = end 2015; Phase 2 = end 2020.

    Taking it from here/only for Phase 1 (2015):

    Combat Fleet:
    (1) Mig 21 Bison - 5 Sqdn -100a/c
    (2) LCA-Mk1(F404) - 1 Sqdn - 20 a/c
    (3) LCA-Mk2(F414) - 2 Sqdn - 40 a/c
    (4) Mig 27 (upg) -2.5 Sqdn - 50 a/c
    (5) Jaguar (upg) - 5 Sqdn - 90 a/c
    (6) Mig 29 (upg) - 3 Sqdn - 56 a/c
    (7) Mirage2000(upg)-3 Sqdn - 48 a/c
    (8) Su30MKI(upg)- 12 Sqdn -216 a/c
    (9) F-18 E/F - 4 Sqdn - 72 a/c

    Total : 37.5 Sqdn -692 a/c

    Notes: This includes the Trainers. Jaguars(S/T/M) include the Maritime Sqdn No 6. Maybe Un-upgraded Mig 27 (1 Sqdn-20 a/c) in reserve. OCU's/Tacde's extra a/c.

    (a) LCA Mk2's (12-14 a/c per year)replacing the Mig 21's.
    (b) F-18's (12-14 a/c per year)replacing the Mig 27's/Jaguars.
    (c) Su30 MKI(upg)'s (12-14 a/c per year)replacing Mig21/27's. Production now winding down 2015-16
    (d) FGFA preproduction starting 2015-16, to eventually replace the Mig29's/Mirages.

    This does seem doable and acheiveable.

    Ajai, am i on the right track ???? have done a similiar exercize for the Transport Fleet/Helicopter Fleet/Specialized Aircraft. (upto 2015).

    If Okay, i'll post them also.


    ps: the 2020 Combat fleet looks GOOD !!!!!!!!!

  41. Not that my opinion matters but I think the chances of gripen winning the MCRA are better than a F 18.
    Just my 2 cents.

  42. Hi Tejaswy,
    While i too really wish that the Gripen would win, really. It's a newer, fantastic aircraft, specially the NG/state of aircraft/cost effective/quick turn around and all that/seems even the IAF thinks it's 'Red Hot'; but, like the Viggen v/s Jaguar battle of the late 70's............there is no political mileage with it. Eventually, political reasons are going to play a major, most likely, it's the F-18.

    take care

  43. "in that case we cannot have a fixed squadron strength for such a long period of time"

    I have a feeling IAF has to get 700 signatures before they can even start talking about increasing sqdn strength.

  44. India, this is me, a respected analyst, speaking from the heart:

    1. Drop the Mig 21. Really, Mig 21? The plane is older than Michael Jackson. It is a shoddy plane designed for short range interception.

    2. Drop the Mig 29. Probably the most maneuverable 3th gen plane in the world, but so what? Terminally short legged, tiny payload and the engines are smoky as hell.

    3. Drop the Mig 27 and Jaguar. Do you really need dedicated light attack planes in this day and age, especially ones without CAS capability? Without strong avionics, these ancient craft will get chewed up by SAMs.

    4. Drop the M2Ks. A strange buy but one that gave the Indians a taste of Western quality and flexibility. If you think that the M2K is a good bomber however, wait till you see the F-16. Or the F-15e Strike Eagle. 40 planes to be upgraded at 40 million each is ridiculous no matter how you look at it.

    5. Drop the harriers. Even the penny scrimpers the Brits have.

    Buy 200 F-18 E/F/G and no one will mess with India for 30 years. Buy a big carrier and you can even land the SH on them.

  45. The Mumbai terrorist incident is a glaring vulnerability, China no doubt would notice and savor. Could China leverage Paki irregular warfare to provoke India into a broad fight with Pakistan?

    China lets both nations bloody their noses and when Pakistan begins to lose badly, as it will inevitably, China mops up with just enough effort to neutralize India. You need only look to Korea and Vietnam for China's archtypical behavior.

    You'd also see this at the most inopertune time for US and Rus... As that would be within China's plans. US would be overextended from Afghan, pressured elsewhere, or Rus would feel the risk is not worth the reward. Even though both Rus and US have got to see India as an essential counter and flank to China. ally-for-the-day, only when interests align, will fail when China sees those interests come out of alignment for the sake of self-interest.

    China, like good muslims, waits and plans.

    Don't expect a fair fight featuring flyboy posterchildren.
    Always beware of the end-run.

    So lets say that all that above is right. It won't be about being self sufficient actually, its the opposite that will save India. Strong reliable allies is the MOST important. More so than which planes. China will be looking for when the strategy will work, and work it at least risk to itself. When that occurs, you can count on being overwhelmed, the types of planes only changes a little algebra. So.. never make it the right time. Pressure their vulnerabilities and understand that a group of allies can overwhelm China. Understand China's assets and global aspirations. India must outflank them so they can't outflank India.

    Great site, sorry for the brevity. ;)

  46. It will be intersting to find out which planes will still be offered if India conducts nuke tests.

  47. India, this is me, a respected analyst, speaking from the heart:

    2. Drop the Mig 29. Probably the most maneuverable 3th gen plane in the world, but so what?

    Mig 29? 3rd generation plane? Respected analyst?

  48. The Mig-29s of India are def 3rd gen. I wouldn't even compare them against US F-15As. That's how crappy they are. And how crappy you are for doubting me.

    And oh, the writer of this blog knows crap about planes.

  49. vincent ... you silly troll ... go play yorself and let the serious defence analysts talk.

  50. to vincent

    u r a american dick

  51. The Mig-29s of India are def 3rd gen. I wouldn't even compare them against US F-15As
    and with upgrade mig29 becomes 4th gen fighter with PGM capability

  52. I don't see any serious defence analysts here. A bunch of bottom fondlers and part time Russian car salesmen.

    Anyone who thinks that Russian planes are mostly good are idiots.

    Even the Chinese called the avionics of their SU-27SKs stone age. Their exact words.

    Even the SU-35 have been mocked by the Russians on their own forums, who think it won't even have the A2G capabilities of the Strike Eagle during the Gulf War, aka 1991.

    The form of the SU-27 is superb to be sure, but planes are more than their frames.

  53. Hi Vincent,
    Welcome to Broadsword. We really do need someone here who advocates the US viewpoint as unapologetically as you do.
    It would be nice, though, if you refrained from the name-calling that many so-called analysts are prone to... especially on this blog... and stuck to military and strategic arguments.
    Russian bottom-fondlers, American dog-washers... these phrases are for those who don't want to get into rigorous analysis.
    I don't quite buy your unidimensional view of Russian versus American equipment. Both sides have their strength. Both have their weaknesses.

  54. Crash rate is 10/yr. Please take that into account before projecting any number.

    To Ajai-ji,
    India indeed needs more that 39.5sq. The number 39.5sq is just to contain China and all out war against Pakistan. It was also calculated that we need 55sq to effectively engage both the side. But when you think it in today's context you also have to factor in the Chinese power now. That is a huge difference.
    India needs to build up it's infrastructure to accommodated so many fighters. There are huge numbers of airbase which are left unused along India-China border which need to be activated. You should also consider that if China attacks India, Pak will not remain silent. Hence while countering China I have always considered that this is a single country and that is "China + Pak". Now defense planner needs to consider where would be the airbases and from where both the country could be monitored and engaged. Specially location like Ladhak from where you can effectively counter both and can destroy any kind of military cooperation/link during the war. Now what will do India with fighter jet against China? Now, interesting part is that the main land China is far from Indian border across the Tibet. I am not sure how many airbase China has in Tibet but I think they are little in back foot here and China will mainly depend on missiles to destroy the airbase, military base etc. Whereas, India will be mostly depended on air force for the same. India must target the Chinese link to the Tibet. Destroy the rail link (all tunnels and bridges). And you need air force for that with huge number and even 60sq may not good enough. But what matters is money and how you want to use that effectively. For example you need to think whether you want to have a squadron extra fighter or 12 AWACS. Which one will give you more effective result? You have to also think if you can wrap the entire area with air defense shield, how much you should spend on that etc …. But the conclusion is 39.5sq is not good enough and try to achieve 60sq.

  55. "Chinese nationalist sites had no clue about China's ability to shoot down satellites. In India, we would have announced the existence and capabilities of that project 20 years before the project executed. Second, was the surprise release of J11B sqdn strengths last year. It is not as if they are spending 5 times India's defense budget, and second only to US and not doing anything."

    Well most of conventional US militarily capabilities in East and South East Asia and geared up against China. And they're still thrice as large as China economically, and outspend it on defence and military research by 8-10 times. Japan and more importantly Taiwan(as well as SK)come under the US military umbrella. What if Taiwan declares independence while China has diverted its forces to the Indian front? That's a factor that Chinese military planners have to keep in mind. A poll on the chief threats faced by China among their population placed India third after US and Russia. That says something about Chinese threat perceptions doesn't it?

    "4 air force bases is a lot. The J11s (SU 27 derivatives) have a range of 2500 miles."

    If you look at the size of Tibet you'll realize four bases is too few. And the Su-27 and its derivatives have tremendous range they will be operating against both ground and airborne early warning assets. Indian aircraft have technological superiority as well as the advantage of information. They will have the upper hand in my opinion.

    "They are buying 250-300 aircraft (JF/Js) from China by 2015. They upgraded their older F16s and bought new block 52s."

    The block 52s are the only real threat. JF-17 is a poor man's fighter and not too high up on the totem pole. And it will not enter service in significant numbers(60+) for atleast another five years. The PLAAF is trying very hard to keep the JF-17 out and fly only the J-10, an aircraft better in all respects except price.

    "I'm assuming each air force base can operate at least 100 aircraft."

    Not more than two squadrons are usually based out of any airbase. That's about 16*2=32 aircraft per airbase and a total of 128 aircraft assuming all airbases support the J-11(which is unlikely anyway).

  56. Could I just ask 2 questions:

    1. Where is the evidence that Russian equipment are effective against modern threats? Did you know that Mig-29 has only shot down Cessnas and UAVs while having a much worse death rate? Compare: F-15 (114-0) and F-16 (76-0).

    2. Why has China stopped buying Russian equipment and as far as possible, tried to copy Western designs?

    The fact is that Russian equipment lost a decade of development in the 90s, did not gear up again in the 00s and lost many plants and scientists in the interim. All their exported equipment today are iterations of 80s or earlier designs.

    Furthermore, Russians have never been known for good planes before the SU-27. The Migs and SU-22s etc are extremely flawed and could only play a defensive/ highly specialised roles in some situations as the Israeli wars revealed.

  57. I would not be too worried about the J-10. The Lavi design had been built for a smaller and more responsive engine. Stuck with the AL-31, they had to build a bigger intake and to prevent it from falling off, they had to build the supporting struts or bars at the side. Horrific hack job, would never see it in Western planes. It is a much more brutish design than the agile Lavi with a deterioriation in performance.

    Now in the J-10B, they have tried to introduce DSI (radars could peer directly into the engine earlier), and modify the intake so that it becomes one piece without the bars. To do this, they abandoned the existing nose and used the J-11 or SU-27 nose! With its forward sloping nose which could add strength to the intake area.

    It looks a bit Frankenstein now, nothing like the Eurofighter or Lavi. Comes from inadequate pre-engineering. I would bet the F-16 to take it apart.

  58. Where is the evidence that Russian equipment are effective against modern threats?

    The same Mig-29s of IAF locked onto two puki F16s whereas the pukis couldn't return the favor.

  59. Hi Vivek,

    "and outspend it on defence and military research by 8-10 times"
    US defence budget - $515.4 billion
    Chinese Defence budget estimates by Pentagon - 100B-150B (Second only to US).
    2] Multiply Chinese budget by cost of living factor and the ratio as of yet will be better than 1:2.5.
    3] US military has more things on its hands.
    4] US will never attack China. China when it is ready will attack US interests.
    5] US is looking for ways to cut defense spending, China is increasing its defense budget.

    "What if Taiwan declares independence while China has diverted its forces to the Indian front?"
    The US will never let Taiwan declare independence. Bush did not do it, Obama would not even think about it. Chinese students mocked at US treasury secretary when he visited China early this year. Right now China commands a high level of repect from US.

    "A poll on the chief threats faced by China among their population placed India third after US and Russia."
    Of course China does not feel threatened by India. It is India that feels threatened by China. That very reason could convince China to pick India first to settle its border disputes. Especially after developments this week where we learned that India does not have a credible nuclear deterrent against China.

    "ground and airborne early warning assets. Indian aircraft have technological superiority"
    There is no way India is going to keep up the technological gap if it relies on buying its way out of all its problems. That path is not sustainable. A bad monsoon could bleed India's foreign resources. China was flying 2 AWACS in 2004. They will just build more. As far as i know, India still doesn't have a functional AWACS system in place.

    "Not more than two squadrons are usually based out of any airbase"
    I think US airbases operate 100 combat airplanes. India upgraded Tezpur airfield in about a year, so can China with its civilian airfields. IMO, India can station more sqdns in Tezpur if it had spare inventory. China will have spare aircraft, and lots of them.

    "The block 52s are the only real threat."
    I think the MLU on their 46 F16s A/B is also pretty significant.

    They are also getting 500 AIM-120C5. What would stop UAE from handing over its F16s/Mirage to Pakistan like it has done before?

  60. Hi Ajai,

    Do we need the M-MRCA ??? the question would get answered if we project the IAF to 2020.

    Keeping the same parameters in mind: (a) Main threats China/Pakistan; (b) what is presently available; what will retire by then; what can we procure outright; what can we produce/assemble locally; attrition/accidents per year. (c) broaden supply source.

    I guess by end 2020 the IAF would most probably look like:

    Frontline :

    (1)LCA Mk2upg - 7 Sqdn - 140 a/c
    (2)Su30MKIupg - 12 Sqdn- 216 a/c
    (3)FGFA - 3 Sqdn - 60 a/c

    (assuming: HAL produces 14-15 LCA/year; SU30 production completed 2015; HAL produces 10-12 FGFA/year; MCA coming into preproduction by 2019-20). Plus OCU's/TACDE etc, with about 25-30 a/c.


    And then, of course, we would have a motley of various 30-40 year old airframes/also with an attrition of about 6-8 a/c per year, would look like:

    (a)Mig21 Bison- 3 Sqdn with 60 a/c
    (b)Jaguar Upg - DarinIII/Honeywell engines- 3 Sqdns with 60 a/c.
    (c)Mig 27 Upg- 2 Sqdns - 40 a/c
    (d)Mig 29 UPG - 2 Sqdns - 40 a/c
    (e)Mirage2000H Upg - 2 Sqdns - 40 a/c.
    Thats a total of 12 Sqdns with @ 240 a/c.

    So, total IAF would be 420 Frontline and 240 Secondline aircraft.

    Just enough to take on Pakistan, let alone China.

    To my mind, the MMRCA is absolutely essential, and aleast 10 Sqdns with 180 a/c, if not more, between 2012 and 2020. The F-18 give commonality (LCA F414 engines), much quicker deliveries, like the Jaguar deal we can swop a/c for training, export components to all F-18 users.............

    Also, Can HAL deliver so much ?? LCA's, FGFA's, Su 30/Jaguar/Mig 21/Mig 27 spares, Mig 29 engines, Naval LCA, Dhruv's, Light Combat Helicopters,Light Observation Helicopters, HJT-36's, HTT-40's, MTA's, An32 Upgrades, Dornier replacement etc......................

  61. Vincent, you're getting carried away by Boeing/Lockheed/USAF/USN statements. That's as big a mistake as being carried away by Sukhoi/MiG/UAC/Rusian military statements!

    Let's remember that, as recently as the 1980s, NATO's strategic planning was predicated on the assumption that a Soviet invasion would reach the Atlantic seaboard within 7 days.

    Soviet numerical superiority? Sure! But let's not forget two things: Firstly, an offensive normally requires 3:1 superiority. Surely NATO could have pooled in to produce 1/3rd the force that the Soviets lined up?

    But they didn't. Because they realised that the kind of doctrines, platforms and military quality that the Soviets would bring to the battlefield meant that it was safer to rely on a nuclear deterrent.

    And, more lately, the quality of Russian aircraft has been amply demonstrated by IAF pilots during the Cope India series of exercises with the USAF. Go read some of the blogs of the USAF pilots who took part in the exercises.

    Making bets on the ability of the F-16 to take apart the J-10B only indicates that your reading has been heavy on equipment technicalities, but light on combat flying. Aerial combat today will rarely pitch one-on-one.

    Talk systems and tactics today. The age of the dogfighter has gone!

  62. Not to mention USAF or USN hasnt fought a half decent enemy for quite some time. Their enemies were mostly first dried out of spares through sanctions and then attacked.

  63. All the comments that i read make lot of sense but i am really surprised the way our defense ministry and dullard politicians thinks.

    On one hand they are creating hue and cry about the falling strength of operational fighters and pushing for new purchases which they should do but along with this why can they also ramp up the SU30 MKI production for which they have all the expertise, resource as well as technological know how..

    It's really disappointing that we are still producing around 12 SU30 per year even though its more than 10 years since the su30 deal went through. The production ramp up should be of the top priority as the very capable fighter won't go obsolete for another 2 decade if stealth is not taken into account. faster produstion of Su30 is the easiest way to increase the squadron strength.

    MMRCA is also a very important project as far as self reliability is concern Specially when DRDO is able to get a team which is capable of doing so, There is no point not utilizing the available resources.

    As far as china is concern it is next to impossible to beat them in numbers at this point. It is more sensible to purchase Superior techonoligies For example Stealth fighters like F-35. With there stealth and BVR missiles we can defend our self from China's large numbers of fighters.

    I think this is the only practical thing to Do in case India want to maintain a credible minimum deterrent against CHINA.

    India cannot catch up with china till it goes in for extensive privitisation of the defense industry.

  64. Vivek G

    "India cannot catch up with china till it goes in for extensive privitisation of the defense industry."

    True! Dismantle ADA, sell its IP to couple of private firms which will also receive MRCA technology transfers. Let the two private companies complete for future orders.

    Every other country in the world including China have competing firms fighting for aircraft orders from the government. Why shouldn't India?

  65. the IAF from early 2001 is keen on a medium light weight fighter. had the MoD decided earlier the IAFwould now have received nearly 3 or 4 squadrons of the Mirage2000-V.IAF will possess as many as 229 MKi's .The IAF has to decide whether it wants a single or a twin engined fighter.if all the aircraft meet the requirements laid down in the RFP after the trials are over then the political and economic factors will play a significant role in final selection of the aircraft.

  66. the IAF from early 2001 is keen on a medium light weight fighter. had the MoD decided earlier they would have received nearly 3 or 4 squadrons of the Mirage2000-V.It will possess as many as 229 MKi's .it has to decide whether it wants a single or a twin engined fighter.if all the aircraft meet the requirements laid down in the RFP after the trials are over then the political and economic factors will play a significant role in final selection of the aircraft.

  67. "MoD decided earlier they would have received nearly 3 or 4 squadrons of the Mirage2000-V."

    ADA said LCA was about to start test flights in 2001. In 1997, even before LCA made its first flight ADA had 'designs' for the MCA ready!

    ADA kept pumping kool-aid and the believers kept swallowing. The effect of kool aid is just now wearing off.

  68. I think that all aircraft in the mmrca are great for our use as they are contemporary, even the old F16 is a great buster, as all the enemies we face can be dealt with ease using the platform, although i would wish we get the EF typhoon, so we can beat them with more ease and i would love to see a 2-engine plane only, f18 is a navy fighter and an excellent plane but we need more agility.

    @ vincent: i don't know if ur an expert of not, i would wish you are, and its great to have an expert here but understand the fact we all like the USA as its the oldest democracy, we just expect you to behave respectfully, that's how friends are won thanks.

  69. There is talk of the IAF needing weather radar for the 126 aircraft contest.
    Is this a doppler system radar?

    If so it raises possibilities they being at higher speeds stealth aircraft causes heavy air disturbances which are dynamic and hence can be picked up by doppler, the basic tranmit module of the radar could remain the same with softwear processing the raw data to give a doppler image. Just a thought.


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