Where is India’s light fighter? - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 6 February 2012

Where is India’s light fighter?

The Rafale does not meet India's requirement for a light fighter. It is time to commit the money, manpower and planning resources needed for making the Tejas (pictured here) a success

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 7th Feb 12

Kudos to the government for selecting a fighter aircraft for a depleted Indian Air Force, which currently fields barely 34 fighter squadrons (21 aircraft per squadron) against an assessed requirement of 45. While zeroing in on the French Rafale, New Delhi has said “no thanks” to arms supply heavyweights whose political and technological clout often bludgeons procurement decisions in their favour. This was helped, admittedly, by India’s ability to soothe the losers with alternative largesse --- Washington with contracts for transport and maritime aircraft; Moscow with deals for helicopters, fighters and warships; London with trainer jets; and Stockholm with the hope of mammoth deals for artillery guns and conventional submarines. But that should not detract from the IAF’s credit for running a fair, transparent and relatively quick contest in which, for the first time in India, a detailed “life cycle” evaluation looked beyond the fighter’s ticker price at the cost of operating it through a service life of four decades.

The difficulty in conducting such an exercise is illustrated in Brazil, where competing pulls and pressures have stymied a simpler decision between the Boeing F/A-18, the Rafale and the Gripen NG fighters.

India’s decision stemmed from Defence Minister AK Antony’s insistence on letting the IAF determine which aircraft best met its needs. But, sadly, this unwise reliance on the views of fighter pilots alone has twisted the rationale for buying a fighter. Instead of the cheap, single-engine, light fighter that the IAF set out to buy in the 1990s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fleet, the IAF will have 126 heavy, twin-engine and enormously expensive Rafales.

These 6 squadrons of Rafales could go up to 9 squadrons through a follow-on order, say IAF planners. Add to those 12 squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI, and another 12 squadrons of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) that India is co-developing with Russia, and the IAF will field 33 squadrons of heavy, high-performance fighters by 2022, i.e. 75% of its 45-squadron fighter fleet. This might gladden the heart of a young fighter pilot, just as a fleet of Ferraris would gladden the heart of a college-going youngster, even if his commute were two kilometres through crowded traffic. But it is worrisome to a defence planner who seeks a balanced force for performing a multitude of tasks economically.

Light fighters are affordable, and cheaper to buy and to fly. Being smaller, they are inherently more stealthy, or less observable on enemy radars. A top-class light fighter is one-third the cost of a Rafale. Even though the Rafale is a powerful, high-quality brute of a combat machine, it will almost always lose in a contest with three modern light fighters. “Quality is fine,” said Stalin, always the pragmatist; “But quantity has a quality of its own.”

That is why the USAF and the Israeli air forces have large fleets of single-engine F-16 fighters. That is also the logic for India’s MiG-21 fleet and for the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) that will replace it. In the late 1990s, whilst justifying the procurement of fighters from abroad, the IAF cited delays in the Tejas programme and suggested that the Mirage-2000 production line be bought from Dassault, and the single-engine fighter be built in India. But when the MoD, still smarting from the Tehelka exposes, insisted on a multi-vendor global tender, the IAF reframed its requirements. The term became MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) and the specifications favoured a twin-engine, heavy fighter. Astonishingly nobody in the MoD seemed to notice the turnabout or object to the contradiction.

Today, India’s light fighter hangars are emptying fast with replacements lagging. By 2013-14, seven squadrons of Mig-21s must retire; another six squadrons will be phased out by 2017, as will four squadrons of MiG-27s. It is vital, therefore, to drive home the indigenous Tejas programme, committing the money, resources and organisational effort needed for developing and manufacturing at least 10-12 squadrons of progressively improved Tejas light fighters.

Compared to the estimated Rs 75,000 crore for just 126 Rafale, the Tejas’s budget has been a pittance. Since 1983, Rs 9,690 crore has gone into aerospace infrastructure --- R&D laboratories, defence factories, private industry, academic institutions, and a world-class test facility, the National Flight Testing Centre (NFTC) --- and into building and flight-testing some twenty Tejas prototypes. Rs 4,353 crore more are earmarked for the Tejas Mark II. Boosted allocations must now expand R&D facilities and up-skill the manpower that drives the Tejas programme.

Simultaneously, a world-class Tejas assembly facility must be built, incorporating the manufacturing practices and quality control measures that characterise aircraft production worldwide. Currently Tejas manufacture is the responsibility of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, which has been without a CEO since Ashok Nayak retired last October. With HAL’s focus on ongoing production lines like the Sukhoi-30MKI, Tejas assembly is hardly a priority. Nor is there emphasis on reducing manufacturing cost, which is currently too high at Rs 180-200 crore ($36-40 million) per Tejas Mark I. That must be brought down to Rs 125-150 crore ($25-30 million) to make the LCA a compelling buy on the international market. Export orders would allow scale manufacturing, driving down prices further.

Paying Rs 75,000 crore for the Rafale will indeed boost national defence. But a far smaller expenditure on the Indian aerospace establishment, and the squeezing of key technologies from Dassault and Thales during contract negotiations, will ensure that the Rafale is the last fighter that India buys abroad.


  1. Absolutely correct on your comments on the Tejas. India allows itself to be bullied into buying 'foreign' and pussyfoots on allocating local resources to succeed.

  2. @Ajai sir

    you may completely disagree with what i am saying still holds good

    1. As known the deal for 126 jets will touch US$20 billion but using option for 63 more (sometime in 2022)will cost another US$12 billion atleast based on rate of inflation and cost escalation. This not including those jets (possibly 42 more)needed by IN, will push totoal Rafale deal close to US$35-38 billion, so I doubt the country shell out so much considering that we are investing in FGFA ($20 billion), AMCA ($10 billion)

    2. We are putting or will put many of our eggs in French basket Mirage 2000 upgrade, Rafale, Scorpene SSK, Super Scorpene SSK, Baracude SSN. Hope to get some concession in prices.

    3. France must help India get its hands on UAE Mirages (68) that they are selling back to France.

    Reason for buying these relatively new jets is simple that we will be short in numbers. Despite inducting 126+63 MMRCA, 140 LCA, 300 FGFA, and 200 AMCA by the year 2035 with retirement of Migs (21,27,29), Jaguars after 2025 we wont be able to take our squadron nos close to 40 or even 45 as said by ACM that India needs to effectively secure itself.

    4. As India signed Mirage upgrade deal, apart from structural (France can do it, with so many deals going there way) we can make requisite changes on them.

    5. Its the only way we can keep the number of jets squadrons as close as possible to 40 if not 45. Otherwise using a Rafale for short range missions will look like 'Cutting Vegetable with Sword'

    Hope you understand my point of view


    Joydeep Ghosh

  3. It is, somewhat, disingenous to suggest the MMRCA is an either or between the eventual winner & the LCA Tejas.

    MMRCA bird, along with the future AMCA, would be expected fulfill the role of the "Med" in the Hi-Med-Low aircraft classes that the IAF would need, with the FGFA & Su-30 series bird performing the Hi-role

    A cursory look at the IAF's projected squadron strenght would itself reveal, that without the LCA being inducted the IAF, inspite of other inductions, would be unable to reach its desired squadron levels. LCA/or a light aircraft of its class is inevitable. I, however, totally agree with you that the LCA require a much greater infusion of funds, with possibly a re-look at the management structure of the project too. It, however, can not be at the cost of MMRCA purchase. The timeline of retirement of legacy aircrafts & eventual induction of the LCA into the IAF fold would leave the IAF with drastic dip in sqadron strenght that India can ill-afford

    Also surprising it is to see you complain about the high cost of the MMRCA birds, yet you desire GoI buy F-35, whose STOVL variant is estimated to cost upwards of $250 million USD [A-variant can possibly cost $25 million, no?].

    The Rafale, while expensive, if properly negotiated & managed could give fillip to India's manufacturing capability & knowledgbase of Technology which the much-much more expensive F-35 would not

  4. Huh...you wanted to go for F-35 and now advocating for LCA.. sour grapes?

  5. Hi

    Good article which espouses the views of many. Maybe rafale deal is a ploy to get TOT for the Kaveri engine project also & get the alliance with SNECMA going.Perhaps for the AMCA
    There seems to be some strategy since Tejas, Mirage & Rafale are all delta winged.

    As everyone knows we have always been found wanting developing cutting edge technology & proving it. Even our automakers buy renault designs & manufacture vehicles which they then call indigenous
    LCA seems to be a problem similar to Arjun FMBT. The customer is not able to scope his requirement. It only keeps creeping by the day & the developer is miles behind translating it into a sustainable product.

    We need to have customers who know their requirement & project managers who are able to implement it within the time & budget


  6. Col, i love last line of your write-up ".....ensure that the Rafale is the last fighter that India buys abroad."

    Very patriotic and an apt reply to those who were challenging your ulterior motives in your last post.

    In short, i can only say - May this wish of Col be granted, Oh Mighty God. Amen!

  7. Wow, I must say, I have been criticizing your earlier anti-MMRCA pro-JSF stance and articles (with pretty much similar arguments as what you wrote here), but I am in *violent agreement* with almost each and every single sentence in this particular article. Brilliantly written, point very well put across.

  8. Col.Shukla any news on lsp7/np1 test flight ? I remember seeing you in the first flight video of lsp4 so may be you will be one of them invited to the first flight of the 7 or np1. Waiting for news from you

  9. Sir, I fully agree ! The IAF must have concentrated only on getting the Tejas Mk1 / Mk2. But alas IAF is only an expert in issuing long-drawn RFPs and taking joyrides in all the contenders.

    The real hard-work is in getting the hands dirty with the Tejas team (ADA) and get it up and running. Unfortunately, the IAF simply sought the easy way out --- just issue an RFP and pay the money.

    Historically too, the IAF has a very poor record of supporting any indigenous efforts. It killed the HF-24, which was a very promising fighter for flimsy reasons. With the HF-24's demise, Indian aeronautical industry came to a grinding halt and remained so until the Tejas was taken up in the late 1980s.

    Its hoped the IAF does not do to the Tejas, what it did to the HF-24 a few decades ago. If it does, the Indian aeronautics industry will be crippled for much longer and the exchequer will continue to pay for highly expensive imports.

  10. so MMRCA is gud/bad ugly???
    shud we do it or not
    wat shud we do???
    is this a new angle to shoot down MMRCA??

    I understand wat u r saying is right...but look at the pathetic state of HAL they can't develop an engine in 30 years...30 years...neither a radar and why aircraft components they r not able to develop a tank engine...we have rail engines in thousands and trucks in millions...but not tank enginer...(may be wrong analogy)but see the point...they r not able to develop even missiles own their own and not even a chunni-munni type hand gun...or an armour ...if everything is imported then let this plane too be imported...we tax payers r earning for these HAL ppl to waste our money...but when we import I at least don't feel tat my money is spent on chai-biscuit and a component tats gud for nothing..gimme one...just one..high tech, completely indigenous product..(now I don't know wat small components r imported) but its a quiz for u...Pinaka isn't tat hightech if it is indigenous...one complete platform or system..tats Indian...just one...

  11. @Anonymous 7 February 2012 11:37,

    That's the whole point of the article. The reason we have failed with hi-tech military development is because the effort (in terms of funding etc) we have devoted to indigenous technological development (entire spectrum from academic research through labs to proper project management of production assembly lines) is a fraction of the money we splurge on buying foreign products.

  12. look who is giving kudos to the MOD for its MMRCA, the same author blasted earlier against IAF's MMRCA program & said to end it & selecting F-35 instead !!!!!

  13. Good article and matured thinking, we need to focus on Tejas with full stream. Hope Rafale helps in making Tejas a success and also MCA(May be Dassault can partner with us in future as they have no plan for 5th gen planes). Iam particularly pleased with Rafale selection because it could easily replace Jaguar and MIG 27 on ground attack role, there I see the wisdom of IAF and Its really mature and wise decision. But its done on one assumption that TEJAS will be on board on time.I see IAF supporting TEJAS by opting for mmrca, there by promoting indigenous product Tejas, so no point in complaining them for their intensions or killing TEJAS.Now its upto HAL to deliver the goods to IAF and IN their due.

  14. Col,

    I don't think, MMRCA was picked up because fighter pilot like ferrari's in air.

    I distinctly remember a air chief telling the media that MMRCA would be the medium in a High-Medium-Low mix.

    Plus the fact is that Rafale investment is a strategic investment is terms of opening up access to nuke sub design, Neuron and BMD. I doubt if Sweden or US will be/able to provide us with such a access.

  15. Minor detail sir-

    The comment 'quantity has a quality of its own' has never been confirmed as a quote by Stalin. As a matter of fact its widely believed to have been said by the great Field Marshal Zhukov of the Soviet Union.

    In either case, you might want to add a 'rumored/believed to' in the sentence.

  16. Very good and wisely written atical Sir, we need home built fighter and other defence equip.
    plz update us about lca's new development.
    Sachin Kanujia

  17. Prabhakar,
    Haha. You give the Indian govt a lot of credit for strategy. There ain't no grand ploy for TOT. Let's get the Tejas functioning with "a" engine first. And then we can think of Kaveri/Snecma what have you. If we can't get this thing built and tested in 25 years, I don't know when we will. As hard as it is, we need to give a deadline of 1 year for fully functional LCA to be delivered by ADA/HAL. If they don't get it done, then fire them all. That's the only way to deal with this situation.

  18. The reason we have failed to "Develop & Manufacture" hi-tech military hardware/systems is because.... n numbers of faults we have committed.

    EXCEPT only few projects like.."The Arihant Project" and may be even "The Agni Projects" a success..

    I liked the way Project Arihant was executed...considering when a the most experienced shipbuilder in the country Mazgaon Docs takes 14 Years to build it’s frst conventional submarine (i.e. Scorpene Sub project)…that too when the entire sub building technology is imported from France….what more can we expect for MBT, Tejas or any other Project.

    I am not sure but seems some one on the top of ladder with enormous power might have strategized and supervised the entire development and manufacturing process…also regularly assessed the risks unearthed during the same and accordingly mitigated all those risks by taking quick decision and exercising his powers to even collaborate with foreign cos..where ever needed.

    I am aware that this was a Navy Project and there were some Naval High level officers were appointed as Directors such as Cdr. Balaji being one..were directly monitored by PMO too…but what I appreciate most is when we learned that an indigenous power plant is not going to work, some one in the chain took quick decision to take help from Russia..and got PM agree and quickly materialize the deal with Russia to get their design and customize according to our requirement .
    WITHOUT hampering the total time line of the project (It’s like planning and running parallel sub-project very quickly).

    This kind of Planners and Powerful persons plan and monitor Arjun ,Tejas and other failing /long delayed projects…then only we can hope what Ajay has hoped in his last sentence..will become true.

    I like the way Chinese and Pakis do projects ..Pakis did everything they could to make their Atom Bomb a realyty….and Chinese did every bit to start producing everything inaround 15-20 short time to make world class Missiles ,Combat Aircraftt ,Naval destroyers to SSN and SSBN Subs that too in enough numbers, despite having..world wide technical embargo led by US.

    They bought sample(very few in numbers) systems from lesser known countries..like SA,Turkey,Russia other East European countries and also theft technologies…got what ever they could get in bist and pieces from Pak,Iran,Iraq,North Korea…to say a few.Then they studied and masterd those technologies ,later they developed products..some cases these products are even better than the products they copied from countries.

    Because “Every thing is fair in Love and War”..as in the case of a war..there is no question of loosing a WAR…i.e. There will be nothing left further, as a country..if we loose a war.

    So by Hook or Crook..we need to achieve our objectives/targets within the Cost. Qualty and Time Project Triangle..the three basic constraints of a project….we failed miserably in all fronts!!!

    If we had successfully built the LCA in time..we would not have needed to buy Rafale at Rs 75000 crore….these $ 20 Bn could have made our other projects successful too.


  19. The cost factor of buying the Rafale will always pinch but once the LCA Mk-2 gets going it will give a huge numbers advantage to the IAF. Probably the follow on order for Rafales wont then be required at all. The Ministry of Finance has to now approve the MMRCA deal. Depending upon procurement and Life cycle costs a single engine aircraft would have been appropriate but what about field evaluation tests.the F-16 failed the trials which the IAF had conducted. and the Gripen could have become a cheaper option but it could not surpass the Rafale or the Typhoon in performance.

  20. Lets now hope that IAF finally wakes up from its slumber.

    If a follow-on order of 60 fighter jets is to be made, let that be the LCA Mark 2, which is equal in all respects to Gripen NG (one of the MRCA hopefuls).

    This is one way IAF can partly wash off its sins.

  21. i fully agree with you this time Sir!!

  22. will you write this article if India selects F-35...

  23. I love to see Tejas flying for India.

    However, I respect and value IAF decision. They are very well qualified to make such decisions.

    Any attempt to discredit that decision is against national interest.

  24. Your observations are absolutely correct. Fun boys are delighted on Rafael purchase but in my opinion it will make our Air Force bankrupt like India Air Line. Do we really need so many twin engine heavy fighters ? Do we have that much money to buy them leave alone keep them air worthy ? The best option was to buy the second hand Mirage 2000 from UAE ( 3 Squarons, and they are willing to sell) and another three squadrons from France herself. And after that to upgrade them as per IAF. standard. Then to buy F 35 or Sukhoi PAKFA when they are ready.
    I am not sure how the life time cost is calculated But one thing for sure a majority of those Rafael will be un-airworthy unless our economic situation improves very rapidly. Why Can't we learn from China. I just want to know how many foreign fighter jet China is buying ? The answer is known to us.

  25. As for the last words by the author, Rafale might be the last fighter purchased from abroad, as USAF do not have plan for a manned combat fighter after F 35. Europeans and Russians following suit will leave Indians with no more markets for next big ticket purchase and hopefully we will also go for cheaper UAVs ( again imported).

  26. @ anon: 7 February 2012 12:16

    u r a boy..we r spending less than 50,000 crore on MMRCA and not 75000 crore as mentioned by dear colonel of ours...but if we consider 10,000 crore as a solid figure spent on entire LCA project then don't forget to adjust "inflation" and then put things in perspective..and don't forget its a multi agency prog. and hence actual funding cud be much more. IF HAL has failed to shore up resources and support from acad's whose fault is tat...PM won't go to every college to build support for HAL...do u think if HAL had offered a prog to an IIT, any IIT in country wud hav refused it??? and wid tat 10,000 crore wat they hav managed to create..skin tats it..tat too after developing skills after years of licence production..if they didn't learnt frm tat then whose fault is tat...Prime ministers??? no matter difficult it but if they r not able to develop a crystal blade..wats d use of their existence...I asked the name of one successful indigenous system..and no one cud name it...where r all those hyped systems...our Defence units r just assemblers...nothing more than tat..and why manufacturing units only..our army chiefs and generals rn't tat clean either...man understand..its just a system to make money and so everyone is doing tat..why crib n cry abt tat...this country is and will fall someday..so let it be..till tat happens enjoy...and let them enjoy their aadarsh's too...hahahaha..Great India...hahhaha

  27. The biggest risk is not taking a risk, a country, an institution, an organization, an entity must have the will, impurities freed crystal clear transparency, relentless integrity, the execution akin to a starving predator which has laid its paw on it prey, then with gods grace can anything great be achieved, Shuklaji i am afraid, the institutions, the people, the policies fail at every step mentioned above, it does not matter how long the country has been independent, i dont blame the politicians as they are representation of the collective ethos, it this earnest intentions of the people that have failed, if all the war equipment is foreign, the wars India will fight will be at the whim and fancies of the supplier.
    -- A timid highest caste Hindu who ran away from India.

  28. I wonder where in history one finds a poor third world country spending billions of dollars in imports of weapons.
    With per capita income less than mexico, indian defense paranoia had made its defense budget bigger than UK!

  29. To expedite the presence of light fighters, India must hasten the progress and production of the Tejas-Mk-1, Mk-2 and Mk-3 by at least 250 Nos combined.

    As far as Rafale are concerned, they can fortunately replace almost all the aircraft like Mig-21/27/29, Jaguar, Mirage-2000 etc at a higher cost accompanied with much superior technology.

  30. Tajas should be produced like cars, assembly should be robotised and we should look at providing IAF with a good number like 300-400 of these mk2 jets. with china and pak making progress, we would need more squadrons than 39, so extra heavy fighters will help, but yes you are right, we would need more light fighters, and most important is training hours available to pilots, we should have the tejas trainer ready, and more aircraft in war reserve for each type too, atleast for the light aircraft type.

  31. Even after seeing how the French arm-twisted us in the exorbitantly priced deal to upgrade our Mirage fighters, it is shocking to see people wanting to buy used fighters from UAE and to get them ungraded. Why the unholy desire to spend the taxpayers' money to the French. They are not being generous in any way to us in any of the deals that India has struck with them. They demand their pound of flesh and the babooos willingly sign away the cheques.

    Have the French helped in fast-tracking the production of the Scorpene submarines. How much TOT have they given to productionise the subs at Mazagon docks? Have they really expedited the process to upgrade the performance of the Kaveri engine under the JV? If the JV is not up and running, is it because the French are not willing part with cutting-edge technology? Anyway shich country is going to part with technology they have acquired with R&D which would have consumed a lot of their taxpayers' money?

    If GOI is not willing to spend on indigenous R&D in the aeronautical field, then we might as well stay as screwdriver tecnicians and assemblers of foreign products and labelling them as Made in India.

    As the good colonel said a lot of money needs to be allocated for R&D if India is to produce world class products.

    The LCA Tejas programme needs to be put on a war footing in order to expedite its induction into the IAF. The MMRCA deal is just a stop-gap measure to augment the depleting strength of the IAF. The IAF still needs light interceptors or mult role fighers. Tejas MK2 should be in a good position to play that role. In the meantike Tejas MK1 should be inducted in numbers to get the IAF pilots to familiarize as well as to give feedbacks that could enhance the performance of the Mk2 version.

    Importing foreign wares at the exclusion of indigenous ones is very short-sighted. It will only make us slaves to foreign vendors.

    Hopefully the Rafale is the last of the foreign fighters that the IAF buys. It is possible if the LCA and AMCA programmes are given the funds and proper management inputs and supervision to ensure timelines are met.

    It is advisable if a complete new, modern facility is set up for the production of the LCA and AMCA.

  32. Throw more good money after bad?! The MoD, the DRDO, and HAL are all incompetent and incapable given empirical experience, the bureaucratic morass, and the self-serving bloated mafia this has become.
    LCA technology is irrelevant and obsolete 30 years later. What has changed now that will make this bird fly, its taken lives of many test pilots and remains nowhere near anywhere, forget about making an engine entirely!
    From a country that can't make a rifle, and a history of failures from a trainer to the Marut, this is wishful thinking not based on real project management or user requirement but on patriotic bravado. Happy landings they say for a reason!

  33. excellent article Ajai Sir. I dont remember any country becoming a superpower by buying away arms from other countries. Hope govt provides extra emphasis on home grown products and make Tejas a reality.

  34. I only want you Ajay Sir to keep on covering latest LCA news and pressuring the government to invest in local technology rather than costly buys.I agree with your say.

    GOD Bless Tejas
    GOD Bless INDIA

  35. Just one tiny problem with you article... what, in your mind, is a good example of a "light fighter" India should have procured as an alternative to the Rafale?

  36. Yes I also hope that Rafale is the last fighter other than the FGFA that India buys abroad. I have absolutely no quarrel with encouraging an accelerated manufacturing and delivery schedule for the LCA. The IAF will indeed place more orders in due course. What puzzles me is your sudden love for the LCA and this pathological dislike for the Rafale and its cost. It is certainly very expensive but so is the F-35 that you were rooting for just a few days ago. In the meantime the Pentagon has clarified that it never offered the F-35 to India but was ready to give information in case India requested it. As the world knows the American Senate is extremely upset about the rising costs of the F-22 and the F-35 and more so the delays in the F-35 joining the service with the US and other partner countries. Let me also tell you that the world has changed since the IAF first began the search for the replacement for its MiG-21 fleet which incidentally had grown to nearly 50% of the total because India was simply not able to buy the then Western fighters. Let me remind you that before 2001-02 when the Indian economy actually began showing a steady rise and only after the 1998 Nuclear tests that the West has started taking India a bit more seriously. Even today, notwithstanding the American desire to rope in India as a balancer for an increasingly aggressive China, the US is still not ready to give everything India wants. By delivering the final batch of 18 F-16 to Pakistan the US has appeased Pakistan and sent a clear signal to India that Pakistan will always remain a US ally. Finally, which fighter or air power expert told you that three F-16s will overpower a Rafale?
    This is childish. No wonder you are again getting a bit excited with this subject. Even with 34 sqns the IAF can take care of the country's current threats provided it maintains a high serviceability and utilization rate.

  37. It's in the making... like a fledging bird... and hope the cukoo's of today's world... hasn't... laid its eggs in its nest... if (cukoo)litening II's... III's... IV's... won't eat up its share of food... else will... choke it... starve it... and kill it... don't have to say... how cunning... powerful... selfish... self centered... are thses cukoos...


  39. Colonel sir, thanks for this timely article! one cannot stress enough the importance of self reliance. This euphoria of buying Rafale is shortlived. I don't deny that its a wonderful aircraft that meets our needs. One has to hope that nobody gets caught taking kickbacks or the french doesn't armtwist us for money. Bottomline is our country will be at the mercy of someone else. Also 20bn is a lot of money to earn as a country in the first place. Even if 10bn comes back, still it is a lot of money. LCA may or may not match the number of Rafales we are buying. But the ability to make even 1 plane has a significant impact on future generations. I hope ADA keeps up the good work and completes this project as a success, even if HAL is not fully capable of productionising.

  40. ............picked up from another forum & re posted here for Mr Shukla's (& everyone else's consideration. It's a different take and a different point of view, and though contradictory to Broadsword, definitely not without some weight. I hope Broadsword prints it & does not 'moderate' it)
    An interesting article which is riddled with inconsistencies.

    "........Light fighters are affordable, and cheaper to buy and to fly. Being smaller, they are inherently more stealthy, less observable on enemy radars."

    This statement is classic deception and a smokescreen. Starting with an incorrect assumption which is not backed by evidence, the author attempts to beat the IAF's logic.

    "........Even though the Rafale is a powerful, high-quality brute of a combat machine, it will almost always lose in a contest with three modern light fighters."

    Again, no evidence but rhetoric. Is the author suggesting that we buy 378 F-16's instead of 126 Rafales? No, he stops short of making this point but gives a weak argument that is easily shot down but takes the issue away.

    "........That is why the USAF and the Israeli air forces have large fleets of single-engine F-16 fighters."

    US has not inducted a single new F-16 in its inventory for the last 7 years. Yes it has upgraded its existing fleet. And yes, in the same manner, IAF has upgraded its Jaguars, MiG21's. MiG-27s and is upgrading its M-2000 and MiG-29 ac. But US wants us to buy the light weight fighter for delivery in 2015 onwards and for which the production will continue well into the 2020's. Clearly it doesn't make sense. I would like to say that F-16 is the ultimate toy that is too small, with a small range and payload capability that will always be a problem for IAF.

    Point for Tejas is well taken. Nobody in his right mind will say that indigenisation is not important. However, IAF has always supported the DRDO but has been consistently let down over the years. Has the IAF objected to grant of more funds for Tejas? IAF will accept Tejas when it is ready and is waiting for it with open arms.

    "........This might gladden the heart of a young fighter pilot, just as a fleet of Ferraris would gladden the heart of a college-going youngster, even if his commute were two kilometres through crowded traffic. But it is worrisome to a defence planner who seeks a balanced force for performing a multitude of tasks economically."

    I take strong exception to this statement. This is deplorable and smacks of arrogance. IAF senior establishment are not a bunch of college going students but visionaries with a clear idea about the strategic requirements as the fight for natural resources picks up steam in the coming decades. For those who love to talk economics, the Indian defence budget has always been consistently less than 3% of GDP. Compare this with the Chinese. 2010 was $120 billion. As we finally confront our worst fears of a two front war, it will be a Rafale class of aircraft and not a light weight fighter that will deliver.

    ".........But a far smaller expenditure on the Indian aerospace establishment, and the squeezing of key technologies from Dassault and Thales during contract negotiations, will ensure that the Rafale is the last fighter that India buys abroad."

    GTRE is developing an engine for the last two decades and are atleast a decade away from an operational engine. A laudable thought but I am not sure that it will be achievable without sweeping reforms. The government has done a wonderful job with the offset clause. That will provide a real kick start to the defence sector.

    Lastly, privatise DRDO and HAL. Bitter pill. I will make it sweet, bring some competition for them like it was done for BSNL in telecom.

    Hopefully, it reaches the original author.

    By an Air Force Test Pilot

  41. Indian Navy should be given the charge of both LCA and AMCA, since its the only force which is capable of achieving the task, and more importantly, it is the Navy which will carry out our Foreign Policy needs with these aircraft in the high seas!

    They have achieved it with a range of world class ships, as well as the K series of missiles.

    Both the IA and IAF are incapable intellectually to assist development of world class platforms in India, they can only shop- they cant contribute in the 'make'!

  42. There has been a huge paradigm shift from the time that Mig-21 was first envisaged to be replaced to the time when Rafale has been finalized. With inclusion of Rafale none should be able to say that this or that situation could not be encountered timely because no suitable aircraft was available to cater for such condition.

    Rafale and Tejas series are entirely in different slots and none of them can block the deal or development of the other. They have to be grown/procured in parallel.

  43. Lighter and smaller fighters are not necessarily stealthier. Rafale's Radar Cross Section is lower than the F-16 and Mirage 2000 despite being larger in dimensions and heavier. An extreme case is the mammoth B-2 bomber that barely registers on radar screens. You're wrong on this.

    What data do you have to support your argument that the Rafale "will almost always lose in a contest with three modern light fighters"? Eurofighter Typhoons and Su-27/30s have routinely demonstrated their ability to beat F-16s and Mirage2000s in close air as well as BVR combat. Which three light fighters were you referring to?

  44. Simple facts!

    1. A holistic picture pints to India's present need to build up jet fighter manufacturing base for LCA & MCA with civvi spin-off.

    2. Preedator drone action in next door Af-Pak is prima facie evidence of what lies ahead for the fighter jet industry. Pilotless, remote, highly invisible and flexible small planes!

    Rafale's priviate 'frenchie' maker has been kept afloat 'frenchie style'; this is a do or die deal for them. So best-of-class terms are on the table. On an .. hehe ... 'EMI' yearly payment plan, this deal costs less than a $ Billion; less than Rs. 4500 Cr.
    Peanuts re: Govt. of India's present and future financials.

    Add all the sops, technology transfer, soft loans, trips, aid program's, french taxpayer input into the project etc. The French taxpayer is the one who whould be concerned about optimal Return-on-Investment.

    It's a 'cheap-&-best' deal !


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