Antony, pull the plug on the MMRCA - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 21 March 2011

Antony, pull the plug on the MMRCA

The five-Tejas flypast at the inauguration of the Aero India 2011 show at Bangalore on 9th February. The IAF has already placed orders on HAL for the first 40 Tejas Mk 1 fighters

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Mar 11

Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshall PV Naik, has surprised everyone by declaring more than once that the ministry of defence was just days away from deciding the winner of the keenly-watched global tender to sell the IAF 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for an estimated Rs 42,000 crore. Naik was evidently hustling his boss, Defence Minister AK Antony, into an early decision, illustrating how narrow service considerations often trump the national interest. For Antony, who has indicated that the contract would be finalised before March 2012, these are the last few months to reconsider what will be a giant white elephant.

Antony cannot be swept away by the fighter pilot community’s simplistic argument that credible defence against China and Pakistan depends upon building up 42 fighter squadrons, up from the 32 squadrons that currently exist today. Instead, he must take a broader view, considering three key questions. Firstly, is victory in the air in modern warfare about mere aircraft numbers or about capabilities? Increasingly, digital networking and command and surveillance systems are significant force multipliers, allowing one squadron to do the job of three. But those networks involve top-secret source codes that no developer parts with, not even for Rs 42,000 crores. If the IAF has to be, as it often insists, a fully integrated and networked force, it must develop its own fighters, complete with network systems.

Given that truth, and India’s evolving ability to build its own fighters, Antony’s second question should be: given our limits on defence spending, would it not make better long-term sense to invest the MMRCA billions in enhancing our flimsy infrastructure for aeronautical development? Would wisdom not lie in accepting a 32-squadron air force for some years in order to develop ourselves as a comprehensive aeronautical engineering powerhouse? Beyond the lip service paid to indigenisation, the 2011-12 defence budget allocates a mere Rs 4628 crore for the military’s capital expenditure on R&D; while allocating Rs 27,322 crore for the capital purchase of aircraft and aero engines. The project to develop an Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), with custom-designed plug-ins to the IAF’s command networks, has so far been allocated a paltry Rs 90 crores.

A ten billion dollar infusion would fund a world-class infrastructure base of academic and training institutions; facilities for fundamental research; the upgrading of our ancillary aerospace industrial base; the building of test ranges; and adequately-funded programmes to plug our capability gaps, especially in aircraft engines, radars and missiles. A decade down the line, with the AMCA reaching completion, India would never again look abroad for a medium fighter. With the evident success of the indigenous Tejas programme reinforced by the forthcoming experience of co-developing the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, India’s aircraft designers and manufacturers need to be supported with all the financial muscle that the MoD can muster.

Thirdly, Antony must consider the question of insurance. And he should ensure with his US counterpart that, if our security environment suddenly deteriorates 3-5 years down the road, the IAF would have access to a better combat aircraft than any of the MMRCA candidates. By then the 5th-generation US-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be entering operational service. Unlike the 4th-generation MMRCA contenders, the F-35 will remain a cutting-edge fighter for another four decades.

Like children running heedlessly towards a cliff, the MoD and the IAF seem deaf to all warnings, even to the multiple tales of woe emerging about the MMRCA contenders. In a report commissioned by the UK MoD (“Management of the Typhoon Project”, released on 28th Feb 2011) the British CAG points out that the Eurofighter Typhoon, which was conceived as an air-to-air fighter, will have full ground attack capability only by 2018. “Problems with spares availability” has meant that the Typhoon “has had to take parts from some of its Typhoon aircraft to make other aircraft available to fly”. Despite that, the Typhoon has fallen 13% short of its target in annual flying hours, permitting only limited training by RAF pilots. Between Nov 09 and Aug 10, just “15% of pilots had sufficient training hours to perform tasks beyond air defence”. The report says that it will take another 5 years for the situation to be remedied.

It says something about the IAF’s attitude towards indigenisation that it takes careful cognizance of Indian CAG reports critical of homegrown systems like the Dhruv and the Tejas. But when it comes to a foreign aircraft, the criticism is not taken seriously.

It is this tolerance for foreign folly that has made India the world's largest arms importer, having bought a staggering 9% of all weaponry sold internationally between 2006–10 (figures: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Unwilling to back our own defence industry, the MoD seems comfortable with the idea of bailing out others. Earlier this month, Sweden’s defence minister announced that, without an Indian or Brazilian order, his air force would not develop the new Gripen fighter till at least 2018. But, trailing his coattails before New Delhi, he declared that it could be done by 2013-14 if a foreign order came in.

It is not too late for Antony to pull the plug on the MMRCA. The cancellation of that tender will be infused with a hugely positive buzz if it is accompanied by a public declaration to invest significant funds into fast-tracking the AMCA project. This single step would galvanize India’s aerospace sector, including the industrial eco-system that must underpin fighter development. For Antony, it would be a personal triumph, burnishing his nationalistic credentials and highlighting his emergence as a defence minister with the vision to end India’s dependence on foreign arms purchases.


  1. Agree with each word of the article

  2. Col. Shukla, your articles on the Indian Armed forces as a whole are very incisive, well researched and thought provoking.

    These articles to bear fruit has to be read and vetted by Shri Antony and his indolent babooos in MOD.

    Clamouring for indigenous R&D development in defence industries with the ultimate aim of being self-sufficient is really terrific but it is not very prudent to cancel a programme of acquiring enough assets to augment depleting IAF fighter squadrons.

    The 126 MMRCA project is a stop-gap measure. If F35 is available during the same time-frame as that of the MMRCA aircraft, then only it is advisable to look at F35 as a logical choice. However when other variables and price are factored in, I don't think India is ready for the F35.

    For the MMRCA acquisition to be success, the best technology and dependable delivery system of the vendors without political and foreign policy strings are imperative. The IAF should get the BEST from the available aircrafts.

    If money is not a problem and the purchase comes with fool-proof guarantees for spare parts during a crisis and without any caveat about not using against any country, then F35 could be the best choice.

  3. Only funds do not make an aircraft, you need expertise too.

    We don't have any expertise.

  4. I think you are very much bating for US aircrafts. Now you are trying to suggest an option to cancel the MMRCA tender. If your interests are really with India, kindly review your suggestions. Alternative ideas are good but with rational thinking. US didn't even allow LM to provide consulting for LCA navy. Do you think you'll get insurance like F35 and other US tech...? US would think their national interest 1st than Indian interests. So Ajay kindly put India first not US lobby.

  5. Why do you think the Tejas was a success?

    An indigenous aircraft with foreign engines and foreign RADAR.

    I think that's stretching it.

  6. What about the MiG-21s?

    They can't stay put in service for another 20 years. Plus, who knows how long will it take for HAL/DRDO to come up with the AMCA, if ever.

    You have very conveniently assumed that given the funds, they can deliver. But the truth is, given more funds the blunder will only be bigger.

    Plus, what is it with your constant endorsement of the F-35?

  7. Hmm, let's see now - it's OK to buy the F-35 even if we can't plug it into our defense network, but that's not OK for any other aircraft.... it's OK if we get the F-35 only by 2018, but that won't do for any other aircraft....

    Nevermind that F-35 and FGFA (into which we are already invested) perform pretty much the same role.... let's all close our eyes to all the faults as long as the aircraft in question is F-35....

    First it was cancel MMRCA and buy F-35 and now it is cancel MMRCA and invest in AMCA.... I wonder if this new argument will continue to be made if tomorrow MoD announces that they are looking to buy F-35...

  8. the most idiotic article i have read recently...

  9. Colonel Shukla:

    I think purchase of the MMRCA (4th generation aircraft) is a waste of money. The ideal situation would be purchase of the F-35 if transfer of technology can be obtained, with increase in the defense budget (your 10 billion) to satisfactorily allow for indigenous development. What I think people don't get is that there are not only military and strategic benefits to this, but economic ones as well.

  10. It would be nice if simultaneous with pulling the plug on mmrca they decided to set up a high production rate facility for Tejas. That would allow us to ramp up to a higher production rate once the manufacturing stabilizes and induct higher numbers of Tejas as an interim 4th gen solution while 5th gen gets developed and matured.

    If 4th gen is in last stages of its life why can't IAF make do with more Tejases alone until 5th gen matures ???

  11. IAF chief already insisted , their could be spoke on wheel in mmrca , if not typhoon , than select rafale .
    India already running depletion in sqn level . As a indian we first see to fulfill our IAF defense needs (fighter jets)against chini/pakis , than we can support either uncle sam /EF/Rafale.
    many countries not interested in F-35 ., ex : Israel previously asked US for F-15 strike eagle in lieu of F-35 , but US refused this offer to promote F-35 .

  12. Difficult Choices.

    Why not infuse that 10 Billion USD in AMCA development as an extra to the MMRCA tender? India can well afford it - We are still not spending 3% of GDP on defense.

    Surely nothing beats being prepared and the Air Force Chief is keenly conscious that he will have to order his men into battle with the best resources for winning a war - even if it happens today.

    That way the Airforce will get what it wants in the short to medium term and we will still build a world class aerospace industry.

    If we dont plant now, we will not reap later. This will also be an investment in India's youth - you will have millions joining the workforce and you need to harness that intelligence and energy.

    I agree that F 35 will be a great aeroplane but it is much further behind Eurofighter in its development. Not exactly the best choice when you want to retire your Migs yesterday.

  13. "invest significant funds into fast-tracking the AMCA project."

    Ajai Sir,

    What makes you believe that just pouring in LOTS of money will 'fast-track' the AMCA project. There is a limit to how steep the learning curve can be and money has no role to play in it.


    why are you so hell bent on getting the F-35 painted in Indian colors. The Americans are upbeat about the F-35 BECAUSE they have F-22s to complement it.

  14. Hi Ajai,
    Good article.
    How ever I have a few questions?
    If Antony change the decision of MMRCA won't it be a wrong political interference on armed forces?
    What about the effort of the testing officials who did the testing for this and what about MOD's commitment to the vendors?
    Why should we pay for this expensive fifth generation aircraft when already we have two(one from Russia and one indigenous) in pipeline?
    What if, this was planned by airforce to have the second line of fighter to complement the flagship fighter(FGFA)?

  15. I am fully supportive of any (sincere and dedicated) effort to bolster indigenous industry, and almost equally disdainful of our political leadership in their understanding (or lack thereof) of perceived external threat levels and the concept of sovereignty. However, could it not be that the haste or urgency requested for by the ACM be due to an awareness of an increased threat level?

    IMHO, 32 squadrons are simply not sufficient to cope with a multi-pronged attack from multiple directions, let alone provide a level of air superiority which would allow the ground forces to go on the offensive.

    Given that the indigenous defence industry simply cannot churn out equipment in sufficient numbers in a reasonable time frame, would it not be more prudent to procure from other sources to pump up the numbers? (I simply hate that we have to shell out over $10 billion to a foreign vendor, but that is price we have to pay for not having seriously built up an indigenous defence infrastructure since 1950 in spite of known threats (1947 would probably have been too early). I wonder with trepidation what the indigenous defence vendors would do if faced with the task of replenishing attrition numbers faced in a real and prolonged conflict.

    Courage alone does not win a war. It needs to be backed up by the right equipment in sufficient numbers for the task. All countries that have in the past won their wars, have done so not merely because they had brave and dedicated fighting forces, but because they provided those brave and dedicated fighting forces with the right equipment in the numbers required. Not much point in having a radar that "tracks 10 targets while simultaneously engaging 4" if the enemy send out 11 targets while forcing you to "simultaneously engage 5". :-) Remember, the enemy may be able to afford more sustained losses than you (or may not really care), but you cannot afford to do so.

    George Patton once said "Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets." I might humbly add, "... especially a hailstorm of educated bullets."

    We might have to continue procuring equipment from foreign vendors for a 2-3 decades more, that is a cross we must bear. But we must utilize this time to learn and build a fully self sufficient defence infrastructure capable of producing equipment with contemporary technology and in quantities that ensure that adversaries would prefer to engage us diplomatically rather than militarily.

    Just my 2 bits....

  16. Ridiculous article. And it's too late to do a cheap trick like that.

  17. A very good thought... To add on to that can't we throw this money into the private sector to fund their research and get atleast 2 companys to come up with a model each in next 4 years (approximately the same time taken to get the delivery of the 1st MMRCA fighter) with the help of DRDO sharing its knowledge and expertise. I know, its easy to put up ideas than get it practical...


  18. Yes. Finally a good sensible voice against the wasteful MRCA boondoggle . That $10b is far better served elsewhere. You dont need the 126 fighters which even if you sign now will start coming in by 2015/16 and start becoming obsolescent. Far better to get the LCA MKII and AMCAs into service in the 2015-2020 timeframe and also have the F-35 as a backup option.

  19. I completely agree with you Sir, With this article you have hit the nail on its head.
    The attitude of our defence forces and our babus has to change tremendously if this country is to see any level of indigenous products comming to the fore.

    Its understandable that some tech has to be imported/ exchanged, but that should remain "SOME"
    presently all the jets airforce uses are imported. after more than 60 years thats a big shame.

    the attitude of the airforce can be well seen in the attitude potrayed by the air marshal durin the IOC of LCA.
    He looked as if he was stting in his grandmothers wedding......

  20. Not bad at all.Here's my 2 cents

    1. I think we should first of all mass produce LCA mk1 200 airframes

    The only real disadvantage is 7-8G instead of 9G but in today's age of 5G WVR missiles like Pythn 5 this practically means nothing.

    2.Concentrate on LCA -2/Navy with guarenteed orders of 200-300.

    3.AMCA-This is our coming out party and the project should be run from the PMO office like ISRO is.

    The arms suppliers should be reduced to sub-component suppliers.

    Meanwhile frankly we could simply boost production of Su-30mki if there is a crying need for say a 100 more aircraft...

  21. a well though out argument and a very robert gates vibe.

    I have a better suggestion, raid the coffers of all the thieves who plunder the country from the seats of every house of parliament they sit on. you will have enough money to buy all the planes the af needs for the next 3 decades build all the infrastructure and aero sector we need ad have enough left over to pull the same for the other 2 services.

  22. Now Ajai da, on this I don't agree with you a single bit. Investing money on domestic aerospace industry sounds good; but why with the money that is tagged for MMRCA? When we all know that the money for domestic industries will go to the pockets of rajas and kalohatis(bengali word meaning black elephants) and no substantial product will come out. If it is inversted in MMRCA, yes, there will be kickbacks but atleast we will have 126 combat aircrafts in return. Yes, I do agree with you that we need to revamp our domestic industries to reduce dependencies on imports; but that has to be done parallely and not as a single thread. For eg; look at our 30 year submarine program for a reference. Regarding your claim that should the security situation worsens in 3-4 years, we must have the F-35 option,the security situation is already highly inflammable and will not take that much time to deteoriate should it decide to do so(the chinese can bring large number of troops into Indo-Sini border with the kind of infrastructure they have built in 3-4 weeks and not 3-4years. Ditto with the Pakistanis). On the argument that 32 suadrons can do the work of 42 suadrons, look again at the Chinese for reference. They have a large airforce and is going for rapid modernization. They are replacing their large number of obsolete fighters like J-7 with domestically built J-10, J-11 as well as imported Su-30MKK. They could have done with lesser number of squadrons during the time when they were investing money domestically; could have chosen to replace obsolete fighters onky with J-10 and J-11; but they chose not to do so. And we know that India faces a larger dimension of threat than the Chinese. Sorry Ajai da, this whole article is based on misconceived notions and from a sense that MMRCA will ultimately be a reality for IAF and may be not the JSF.

    Thanks and Regards
    Rahul Samanta.

  23. I doubt the thought given in your column would be possibility in next 100000..00 years as we Indians do not like indian product, all we like is foreign shooed, gun, tanks.. Cars, the list goes on and on.
    I doubt the indian babus, mantri or MD of defense cares for R& D, all they care for meri biwi, maruti aur mai.

    I have been working longer hours for high end mathematical R&D in foreign co's. I doubt it's possible to do the same in India, as the HR of x/y sector would care for religional, cast factor and no work approach, cheep labour.

    Sometimes, I wish, I could work in india with no cast/ regional / cheep labour or no nonsense attitude R&D.
    Also, some of my friends as senior lecturer, researcher in worlds top R&D sector, etc, do want to work in India, however, they doubt, it's ever possible in this life time.

  24. well said ....But lets wait if someone out there listens ....because this is India and will always be India 1962 or 2062.

  25. Firstly I love the picture of those tejas, it is no F-22 but it is ours.
    My analysis of your article.
    1].Air chiefs need to ensure assets are available and that they are used optimally. In Naiks defense sufficient assets are not available. And what he has, cannot be used optimally[MIGS?]. Any leader in charge in such a situation has to look short/medium term and not get airy-fairy. This requirement was projected in 2001. So maybe the hustling is just desperation/exasperation?

    2].Victory would be a combination of both numbers and capabilities, a balance is required. e.g. 2 F-35 squadrons are meaningless just like 24 Gnat squadrons.

    3].AFNet may still be in its infancy but it is there- so they are working on it.The AMCA is light years away, by then maybe they would completely revamp the way they have currently planned for network centric warfare. Howvere, I wish they would move quicker on both.

    4].There must be separate money for R&D and for purchasing capital assets, you can't mix/switch them. No point sacrificing critically required assets for a future nirvana when we could end up with neither in the way we envisaged.

    5].We cannot criticise the IAF's love for foreign planes when, on this blog in the same article you are forcefully making a point for the future induction of the F-35. Besides remember how the IA went on about the T90 till the arjun showed them where it belonged. Your point is taken about the step-motherly treatment towards Dhruv and Tejas by the IAF.

    P.S. However I would switch sides and go with you only if DRDO/ADA/HAL would guarantee an AMCA IOC in 5 years

  26. F 35 no again no, to hell with that.

  27. Fishing in troubled waters generally pays off.But not in this case I think.

  28. Insanity is to repeat the past and expect different results.
    The F 35 buy is ridiculous. It is a half baked aeroplane and like the F 104 will help only the US. We want something cheap and cheerful to fly strike missions against an enemy who has "economical" weapons. Note Ajay Ahuja's Mach 2 capability was of little use that fateful day.The F 35 will be worse- "Ten thousand pounds of education fall to a ten shilling Jezzail". Regarding idea of pumping in money to present R&D organizations.Refer to the first sentence.We need to break monopolies and commanding heights.

  29. The only reason the Indian air force or armed forces altogether are comfortable in facing off Chinese superior numbers are apparent hardware superiority. You seem to want to push the limit on the numerical difference between the two air forces, and yet in your call for indigenous development, include your pet calls to purchase F-35 an exercise whose cost will out strip the present MMRCA exercise by leaps and bounds. Rather than go for F-35 and indigenous development, the present strategy of going for a stop gap to prevent force levels from depleting, and at the same time invest in developing an indigenous air craft seems more prudent , much more so than your penchant to procure an American aircraft which has been decades in development and been criticized much more than the singular report that came out about the Eurofighter. We cant forget the multi national doubts that have emerged about F-35's development, costs and capabilities neither can we be the only nation with 3 5th generation air crafts (FGFA, AMCA and F-35) in simultaneous development, that would be just a waste of money.

  30. I wear American Denim, German Shoes and American T-Shirts. I drive Japanese bike and Korean car. My laptop is Made in China and belongs to American brand. I work for an American company. Then why the hell will I buy Indian stuff!

    But wait, I honestly pay my taxes to the government of India. And MoD and IAF are part of the GoI. So it is my right to ask them to NOT buy an expensive white elephant and instead put my tax money on Indian systems.

    But who listens to a f*cking tax payer in India. They are busy stashing money in their swiss bank accounts.

  31. Ajai Sir,
    while your article does have a 'feel good' about it and you write in the interest of national security, however you dont take into account the reality that is India. In theory the article has sound ...or somewhat sound logic, but we need to plug a gap in our capabilities immediately, living dangerously in an already deteriorating security environment , a decade in the life of a nation without security is the greatest folly. F-35 not withstanding its capabilities will prove to be a great liability to the more ways than one . First the US is obligated to supply to those who have already committed towards it like Israel etc,hence there is bound to be a delay of more than 5 odd years! than we need to strike and negotiate the deal once again, which has 'end user requirements especially for high tech equipment. Secondly the US is a great one to keep twisting our tail as a proxy against china which will surely deteriorate the sit further, we will be caught up in a strategic quagmire which will be not in our favor. Further spares will be linked to additional purchase of military equipment and arm have already seen the kind of pressure the US President is personally putting for the F-16/18 deal. The best way forward may be two options :-
    First - purchase Additional SU 30 till AMCA.
    Secondly - MMRCA, in larger numbers to make this deal even more viable. while technology makes up for numbers ,technology does not make one aircraft available in two sectors at the same time. Pump more money into R&D, however remember in India you cant fast track the AMCA it will come when it has to come!!

  32. Sir,
    Your article always gives us some new ideas. But what you argued is not possible. We need infrastructure and technology to build war-machines. Pouring money in our research is always welcome but outcome is limited (example LCA, Akash, Arjun).

    Once u said that we should go for USA F-35 and scrap the MMRCA. now it's for R&D.

    I believe both ideas are not practical. We need tech. which we will get from ToT from MMRCA and FGFA. and again two 5th gen for India is too expensive(idea for F-35).

  33. MMRCA is utterly important but it is only a stop gap arrangement. Further I do not see any contender among them to be much superior or useful than LCA-II and they can not be comparable to the planned AMCA.

    Under no strange circumstances India should purchase more than two squadrons of the F-35 because they can be expected to be less useful than J-20 and further less than AMCA & FGFA. So limiting the F-35 to only two squadrons consolidates all their good attributes and diminishes all the effects arising out of their redundancy if due to any reasons.

    If rapid expansion of the squadron numbers is the first priority, then unfortunately or fortunately still Su30MKI Super is the answer which can be added in 2 or 3 Squadrons. I mean something good must be purchased within the delivery timeline of the MMRCA even if it is Rafale.

    The balance money of MMRCA if any shall be diverted to the LCA-II and AMCA to hasten their progress and production.

  34. Hi, Anonymous @ 22 March 2011 09:53

    Just ask your parents how you started to walk... you were not running the first time around... how many people including your parents were supporting your... right as well as... your left hand... the slowly one hand at a time then... you let your self off... with no ones support... you were too small... to remeber all these...

  35. You seems to say that either abandon MMRCA & give the money to HAL/ADA (for them to learn & and move to abroad for a better paying job with nice resume) etc OR buy F35 but not buy the MMRCA.

    Why not pull the plug on MMRCA and announce competition to build aircraft including private sector ?

  36. One of the best article...

  37. Mr Shukla’s articles have me increasingly worried about where his interests lie.

    Will our domestic industry be able to deliver an aircraft of the required performance and within the required time? To me, the answer is No and No. The MMRCA programme has been launched to address a specific threat. That threat exists today and demands an aircraft of a certain performance. We need a Ferrari Enzo, not a Maruti-800.

    Developing an entirely new aircraft will take time, a long time. Further, as far as technology goes, the technology gap between the LCA and the MMRCA is a big one. How sure are we to bridge that gap is a short time. Are our RnD establishment and Industry capable of delivering an aircraft of the required performance in this short span of time?

    Mr Shukla knows the answer. He is probably counting on the failure of the indigenous effort to push back the MMRCA programme to a later date, thus giving his favourite child, the JSF, a shot at the prize.

  38. Ajai,

    You are probably going to hate me saying this, but you have come a long way since you started reporting. Hopefully you see all sides now and having the ability to believe that we are on the right path with our industry is the way to the future.

    We have to build our own machines, whether it be LCA or Arjun or the MTA. The T-90 dabba must go. Tank-EX needs to happen for t-72 upgrade.

    Thanks for your article. I do like this one.

  39. Seems to me like Def minister Anthony and PM Singh are in cahoots, to seek foreign developed technology, thus showing India as a "market" to attract foreign firms. Although this is good for commercial business, defense technology and expertise needs to be developed internally at a blazing pace in this modern tech world. India should allocate substantial funding to its Defence R&D projects. As seen by latest attacks on Libya, the standard practice seems to be launch of 1000's of cruise missiles at enemy before ground/air engagement actually begins. Based on these logical realities of modern warfare, it is essential to have sophisticated surveillance (ISR) capabilities and preemption capabilities for our forces to strike at our enemies. As said by Ajai'ji the emphasis on self-development of technological expertise and integration of these into our armed forces is mandatory for future success in battlefield. Also worth noting is the sad lack of futuristic vision in science and technology among our young scientific generations. Seems like we are accustomed to follow western technological breakthroughs, never once creating a novel idea ourselves. That is what needs to change the attitude that West is somehow scientifically superior and Indians shall always be at the begging end.

  40. Availability of spares from Uncle Sam is a given as long as we toe their foreign policy line to the last exclamation point.. ;)

    So yeah..go ahead and cancel the MMRCA and order the still in testing F35 which will be available to USAF in 2016..maybe we should outsource the actual flying part to them...they will be calling the shots on what to do anyway!!

  41. @ Anon who said 5 years for AMCA

    why is it that DRDO always has to promise ridiculous timelines to get paltry sums and then be bashed over funding and time overruns (when the funds come in late)

  42. Question is What is the present state of Air force? and looking at the history of Indian aircraft development or for that matter any other defense Project has Been COMPLETED in time, COMPLETED with Better standards or quality?, how many chances have been given and squandered, so i am with with the IAF chief on this, not with a politician who say 2 different things in 2 days on the same issue. SO i am guessing, if INDIA plans to go Indigenousness, it would probably take another 30 years to come up with "Modern" fighter Aircraft, by scrapping MMRCA. Reason DRDO and HAL will never change for better is they are old school resistance for change, i have My Father working in DRDO and uncle in HAL,and HAve been to CORNELL.

  43. I do agree with everything what you have written. This is how it should be, an ideal scenario.
    Now lets come to a realistic scenario, I'm sure money wouldnt be a prb for the indian gov to pump into DRDO and other R&D Organizations. Problem statement is expertise. Solution of indian gov- JV and partnerships with foreign defence institutions so that our team can learn rather than reinventing the whole wheel.
    Now the next problem is that these foreign companies are very smart, they teach some stuff but they never teach the most crucial thing [else they would lose business] [Lets look at all the tech transfers which has happened over years, india knows how to assemble planes, but do we really know how to build one apart from the airframe and few electronics?]

    The solution to get to the author's ideal scenario is improve the academia of the country. I really dont know why everyone prefers engineering over to sciences. We cannot solve basic issues with engineering only sciences can do it. To conceive something you need science, engineering come far later. Even if Indian gov changes the education system today, it would still take 25 years to see the first fruits.

  44. Utterly ridiculous article, deeply disappointed. I have been an regular reader of this blog and feel lot of bias in recent articles.

  45. Lets pull the plug on the Corrupt Cong Govt controlled by Mafia.

  46. How many people know that there have been several mistakes pointed out in the procurement procedures but the IAF and MoD is bulldozing its way through. From the current estimates this is going to be the biggest defence scam ever. Wait and watch.

  47. All platforms in future have to be indigenous, except for the very large ones which are not required in large numbers. The indigenous platforms can be supported by design assistance, sub-system purchases etc. This decision has to be taken immediately or the services will again create an urgent situation for import of complete systems. Forget the F-35.

    We should understand why the world is wary of the PLA - It is their indigenous design and development capability despite the fact that they still import certain critical subsystems like aircraft engines.

  48. Col Shukla,
    I can understand you are batting for US maal and also understand your frustration that F35 would not be ready for another few years but please note that China or Pawkistan are not going to wait for India to buy F35 or Tejas to mature.
    Nobody denies the importance Indigenous arms development but wars and security wont wait till we develop or perfect them. All this hoodwinking by the way of rooting for indigenous looks forcing India to choose the inevitable. Tejas Mark ii will be test flown in 2016 and FOC in 2018. In case of calamity, there is only one Military -Industrial complex that can spare resources for war in case India needs it - US.

    What do u want India to do? Fly Bisons till 2020? Basically you want promote US maal this way or that way

  49. One cannot cancel the MMRCA because we need to augment the depleting numbers asap.
    Even if your argument for speedy induction of JSF is accepted by MoD and all the powers that be, any clue when the first F-35 will fly in IAF colors.
    How long will it take for the first fully equipped F-35 squadron to form and be battle worthy ie, post training of pilots and ground crew apart from building the infrastructure to support F-35, after factoring the haggling over price and sundry other issues and CISOMA and what not, with all the red tapism and bureaucracy tossed in good measure?
    Assuming the first F-35 flies in IAF colors by 2018, IAF numbers would have dwindled to frightening levels by then, unless IAF inducts 2 squadrons of LCA just to keep up the numbers, and we fully know LCA's FOC is still awaited, there are teething problems w.r.t its flight envelope which hasn't been fully opened. Am not critical of LCA one bit. I long for the day when it achieves FOC and Mark-2 rolls out of HAL, and some day, the Kaveri will power an Indian jet. But all these take time.
    The whole jambooree of MMRCA was an idea of MoD when all IAF had asked for were a few squadrons of Mirages to augment its falling numbers. The Mig-23/27 are almost written off. The IAF is doing all kinds of jugaad to keep them flying despite numerous crashes.
    If we can have F-35's with the same capability that the US flies, then I am all for it, but deep within we know that will take a tremendous leap of faith on the part of both parties, and I honestly feel the gap is too wide to be bridged over a glass of wine, assurances and signing over the dotted line.

  50. The suggestions made to increase the Indian R&D budget is exactly what we need. Along side govt shall plan a road map to arrest or lure the cream every batch of grads and post grads that are coming out every year and showing their Ass to India which is needed. Indian R&D works very well despite of all the cast and "Mai meri Biwi aur Meri Maruti" attitude of work force. Tejas is not delayed cause of people involved in developing the aircraft but due to Indian Govt. policies about procurement, man power and Caste biased selection criteria.


  52. I am 1000% agree with this thought and the article. When we launched MMRCA competition i just thought What is the need for this tender while we are developing our own. Delay is a natural thing every aircraft Development. If this is the way all are thinking, What french, American and Russian Air froces will do, when their Aircraft development program is in any delay: go for another aircraft from any other country or will they wait for their own aircraft?".It will be great if we cancel the MMRCA bid and go for more LCA Mk2 and PAKFA. All will come in the same time frame.

  53. Sir,

    it gives me a feeling that your article is paving way for one more scam, where these 10 billion dollars will go unaccounted, this time on the name of R & D.

    I would love to see an indian A/C flying but honestly these politicians cant be trusted, specially when PM says he did not authorise Vote-purchase. How can his government function without his knowledge. Is he really running this government?

  54. I am a big fan of yours col. If there were more inians like you then there would never have been a need for Pakistan. However that is not the case! and instead our babu's and hate mongers have only earned us enmity with our is for this reason india needs to shore up its defences presently ratherthan wait. India is surrounded by people who have no love for it. Want proof...look at the support pak got when playing against australia in lanka and more surprisingly in sher -e- bangla stadium in bangladesh....the green and white was flying everywhere and they were shouting Pakistan zindabad..whilst carrying it aloft and running...mainly by the educated young students!!! imagine that! BR types must be having constipation.

  55. Canadian parliamentary budget office has reported that the F-35 would cost Canada twice what its intended price was supposed to be. Why would it be any cheaper than that for India?

  56. Ajai, Marshal is spelt with a single L. You keep making this mistake.

  57. @M Patel,
    Babus and hate-mongers have nothing to do with hate for Pakistan.What the polity,Army,power-elites of Pakistan do against India is only too well known and demonstrated.Whether the paki people in general support it or not is immaterial,since they do not make a difference to the civil or military rulers in paks military rules interspersed by 'guided democratic' rule.And what gives you the idea that India is surrounded by people who do not love it is.Only Pakis qualify wholesale for that.Your 'cricket-test'makes as proof of Paki popularity makes one wonder as tp MPatel or M paki!!!!!South-Asian teams gets precedence over a non-south Asian team in South Asia.And Sri-Lanka nor Bangladesh are on the moon,that Paki fans in droves cannot go there to support their teams.

  58. An Interesting article i found...this is why F35 may not be for us

    Turkey Puts F-35 Order On Hold Over US Refusal To Share Technology

    Turkey has announced that it is putting the planned purchase of 100 F-35 fighter jets from the US on hold because the Pentagon refuses to share the source code used in the software designed for the aircraft as well as the codes that might be used externally to activate the planes.

    Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul said on Tuesday, following a meeting of the Defense Industry Implementation Committee (SSIK), that the negotiations over the F-35 procurement tender had not yielded “satisfactory results.” He said, “We will evaluate the order in the next meeting, in light of the progress made in the talks by then.” He said much ground had been covered in the talks in terms of technology sharing, but this was not enough for Turkey to accept the jets. He said the costs of the project had also increased but that the Turkish side had failed to secure the source code and the remote flight codes for the planes for which it will be paying $16 billion. Without the source code, Turkish engineers wouldn't be able to make any changes to the software that operates the jets. The external flight codes are equally important, if not more, as they can be used externally to navigate the jets.

  59. Col. The MMRCA contract wont be cancelled or scrapped considering the no.of Mig-21s and Mig-27s we have and with LCA already delayed it remains to be seen whether they prefer a twin engined jet or a light weight fighter like F-16/Gripen.They on the other hand are in tune to raise the fighter squadrons to 64 in distant future.

  60. I would say that its a seminal suggestion.

    Indigenous efforts have always been short of funds. 50,000 crores might provide for the wishlist of all those involved in defence R&D for probably the next decade and the downstream impact could be atleast four or five fold. We already have the results - 10,000 odd crores have already yielded the LCA, the ALH, the LCH, Kaveri and Arjun.

    The MMRCA acquisition is already delayed. As a nation we can risk another four or five years, place our bets on AMCA and reap the benefits. There is no doubt the defence establshment will rise to the faith posed in them.

    Mr Shukla, your current efforts and likely future endeavours in support of indigenous capability would serve the nation infinite times over and potentially change the current strategic thought pattern for ever.

  61. Do we really require an MMRCA?
    Gone are the days when Gnats took to the sky and defended our skies.
    Today missile technologies provide better air offers ad defense capabilities.
    14 billion dollars on one type of air superiority fighter is an anachronism in modern day warfare.

  62. India needs to fill the gap, and also establish new strategic partners around the glob, India started inducting su-30mki from 1998 til date only 6 squadron are operational the ability to produce aircraft is very slow, because of spare parts and maintain-ens. Also India needs new air crafts with AESA Radar. . Stealth Jet engines and EWS. The air craft must be dual engine to avoid crash. We will have other technology with our technology i.e, MMRCA and LCA.

  63. If India goes for F-35 the americans will give basic model of it, not a full combat capable as of american version, also pakistan can get f-15, f-16, f-35 from Saudi Arabia.

  64. Mig 23 with AAM has shot down f-16, were as Mig 29 got boomed from f-16, it depends upon how the air craft is equipped with. So any air crafts we choose must be immune to SAM,AAM at least with some old models

  65. Pathetic article with ridiculous idea.

    Mr. Shukla and all the supporters; plz you produse all the essentials of life like flour, clothes, or house or buy them?

    Most of us buy them.......Nobody can live a self sufficient life. But that does not make us puppet in the hands of farmers or weavers.

    A strong air force is as essential for a country as clothes for its independence and sovereignty. You cannot beg others (US in this case, as you suggested) to protect us.

    And why you are so impressed with F35? We don't need it at all. By the time we start getting deliveries of F35, our own FGFA will be ready. So, F35 is not for us. Now please stop singing lullabies in favor of F35 and USA.

    USA is not a reliable friend; MIND YOU.


  66. I generally enjoy reading your stuff, but have several points of disagreement on this one.
    One, the thrust of your article seems to be that everybody except the IAF itself is an expert on what is good for the IAF. Number of squardons, technology of the aircraft, network centric warfare, it seems everybody knows what the IAF should be doing, except the professionals in the IAF itself. Cant blame you, its symptomatic of the Indian mindset as far as defence is concerned, dont listen to the fighting professional, but every other Tom, Dick and Hari. perhaps that is the reasons that for the last 3000 years we've mostly had our backsides hammered by every passing invader!
    F-35 is a different gen aircraft, we werent even looking for that right now. in any case, the reason we're paying the russians for the PAK T-50 (or call it FGFA) is to provide a 5th gen system. dont see the need to bring in F-35 into the picture, unless its purely to keep the americans happy.
    Request you write an article about the C-17, now thats a system we could have avoided. too costly, complicated end user agreements, when we couldve simply picked up the An-124 with updated avionics, a better aircraft at better prices.


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