IAF chief blames UPA for procurement delays, spells out schedule for boosting fighter squadrons - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 4 October 2016

IAF chief blames UPA for procurement delays, spells out schedule for boosting fighter squadrons

Second fighter line "on the table"; FGFA talks moving forward, Jaguar upgrade coming soon

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Oct 16

Addressing his first press conference since India contracted for 36 Rafale fighters from France, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, outlined on Tuesday his vision for how crippling deficiencies in fighter aircraft would be tackled.

Raha blamed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s preoccupation with procedure for the IAF’s current aircraft shortfalls --- it has just 34 fighter squadrons instead of the sanctioned 45. He said: “I think all our procurements have been more or less process driven and not outcome driven. [Now] there is a change of perception and now most of the procurement processes and policies are being amended so that it is (sic) outcome driven.”

“We have planned up to 2027 and if the inductions had been timely, the IAF’s capabilities, certainly in terms of combat aircraft --- as of now it is good, but it would have been better.”

The IAF has not yet closed the Rafale chapter. With Dassault, the Rafale’s French vendor, believed to be readying a proposal for building 80 more Rafales in India, Raha stated: “We would like to have more, but the decision will be taken in the near future based on capabilities and the desirability of having [more] fighter aircraft of this class.”

Second fighter line

The air chief indicated that a new Make in India fighter production line could come up soon, based on “unsolicited offers” from Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Saab for building their fighters in India --- respectively the F-16 Block 70, F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Gripen E. These offers are conditional on the IAF buying and operating the fighter in question.

“This is very much on the table and I’m sure whoever gives the best deal [will win]. All the aircraft are very capable, so it will depend upon who provides the best transfer of technology; and, of course, the price tag. It’s on the table; nothing is decided as yet.”

Said Raha: “This will not be just licensed manufacture. It will be proper transfer of technology. Also, India will become a hub for manufacturing, as well as maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) for other air forces in the region.


The IAF chief also flashed a green light on modifying and upgrading the Jaguar fleet, the IAF’s key fighter for deep penetration strikes. As Business Standard has reported (March 27, 2015 “Facing dwindling numbers, Jaguar upgrade crucial for Indian Air Force”) at least four of the six Jaguar squadrons (120 aircraft) will be rejuvenated with new Honeywell F-125N engines for $3 billion, a modern Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, indigenous DARIN-3 avionics and will carry the smart CBU-105 “sensor fuzed weapons” that India bought from Textron, USA.

Said Raha: “To exploit the Jaguar for the next 15-20 years, we are upgrading the aircraft with better weapons. I think there has been slow progress in the past but I’m sure this is going to pick up steam, and very soon we’ll see progress.”

Raha also said upgrade programmes were progressing well in the three Mirage 2000 squadrons (cost: Rs 12,100 crore); and three MiG-29 squadrons (cost Rs 6,400 crore).

Indo-Russian FGFA

The tortuous negotiations holding up the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) are resolved, Raha confirmed. The two sides are believed to have agreed on a $4 billion “R&D Contract” that could see HAL and Sukhoi co-develop and build up to 250 FGFAs for the IAF.

Said Raha: “[Earlier, the IAF] found gaps in information on transfer of technology; how they (Sukhoi) have achieved these 5th generation technologies, and in visibility of the total cost. So these issues were flagged… and now a lot of clarity has come on these issues. Hopefully things will be decided sooner rather than later on the FGFA.”

Tejas LCA

For the first time, the IAF chief spelt out a detailed commitment and roadmap for inducting 120 Tejas fighters into the IAF in a decade.

Raha said the first squadron, which will have 20 Tejas with “initial operational certification” (IOC), would have four fighters this year, with HAL boosting production to eight fighters annually from next year. “So in another year and a half’s time, we will have a full squadron of LCA’s – the IOC version”, he said.

Raha revealed the long-delayed “final operational certification” (FOC) of the Tejas was imminent. “I’m sure in another five-six months FOC would be cleared and production will start as soon as [HAL] finishes producing the IOC version. So we expect that the FOC version [of the Tejas] will be operationalized in an IAF fighter squadron in another three years time.”

Meanwhile, the Tejas Mark 1A, with improved radar, weapons, electronic warfare capability and maintainability would fly in three-four years.

“We should be able to start production of this aircraft by 2020-21; and in another five-seven years [i.e. by 2025-28], we’ll have 80 Tejas Mark 1A fighters”, said Raha.

Fighter squadrons: today and in the future

Sqns today
Sqns later
Time frame

Being built in Nashik

Being upgraded
Mirage 2000
Being upgraded
Tejas LCA
Developed and built
2 sqns by 2019-20;
6 sqns by 2025-28
Re-engined and upgraded
Likely by 2025
Phased out

Phased out

Rafale, F-16/ F-18 or Gripen E
Manufactured on new line in India
Likely by 2025
Co-developed with Russia and built by HAL in India
Likely by 2025-28



  • ·      Does not cater for additional Rafale
  • ·      Does not cater for Tejas Mk II and Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft


  1. Table does not have the 2 squadrons of Rafale aircraft we just brought.

  2. Sir,how many of them are capable of striking enemy from beyond visual range.Because thats the new technology right?. Why get into dogfights if one can target from very far away. Also place for drones, automatic sensors for detection and firing at borders and drones and Use of robots etc. Also How much do we spend on cyber warfare.Is it enough .Thank you.

  3. Our def min spoke about a possibility of making one or two fighter jets in make in india programme ie 120 single engine fighter jets and another 126 twin engine plane other than tejas.That means there will be a possibility to scrap tejas mk 2 and instead goes for amca directly .So,what will happen is that 120 grippen or f16? 90 more f 18 or rafale?. The govt only goes for rafale under make in india if f18 deal got struck and that is also a distant reality due to its price concerns.The original govt cost assumption for 126 deal was 120000 crore.Of which 60000 cr goes to 36 rafale and the remainig amount should cater 90 planes,above 650 per plane.The f18 in its advanced hornet configuration may comes with this price.The fund for another 120 single engine plane may diverted from delayed projects like amca and fgfa .Most probably jas grippen ng which comes with a final price tag of 150 million $ per piece ,costs 18 bn $ total enter iaf's lower weight cateagory.

  4. Yeah yeah we get the diversionary tactic, deviating from the burning issue....
    cant see so many anti posts against you, right ?
    Why don't you come clean and apologize...?

  5. How can they consider F-18, F-16 and Gripen now, considering that IAF had rejected these planes after conducting extensive trials just a few years ago? It is noteworthy that he made no mention of AMCA. He could have said "We have requested the Govt. to expedite work on AMCA" or something to that effect but he deliberately didn't. This guy wants IAF to remain helplessly dependent on imports for ever!

  6. They should scrap fgfa it is not stealthy. As an aerospace engineer who works specifically on stealth I can assure you it is NOT stealthy you are having a laugh.

  7. This is all well and good but why is the IAF planning to operate 2 or 3 squadrons of so many different planes, needlessly complicating logistics, maintenance, training, and everything else. Incompetents and cretins. And if UPA was the reason for the procurement delays, why couldn't our air farce (not a typo) gone big on Tejas and forced HAL to invest on expanding assembly lines, DRDO on development, etc. We could have had more Tejas in the air today. Instead, we bought 36 Rafale, which cost so much that we'll be too afraid to use them in war for fear of losing them. Incompetents and cretins, like I said. I'm almost tempted to say traitors, but that'd be a lie. They've shown ample patriotism, courage and bravery, but this love for the big flashy thingamajig is going to sink our nation if we get into a serious war.

  8. NSR says ---

    Col. Shukla,

    "Honeywell F-125N engines for $3 billion"

    for 4 squadrons by the time upgrade is complete...means 64 fighters...times 2 = 128 engines and spares 22 engines = 150 engines...

    $3000 millions / 150 = $20 millions per engine...

    No one pays that much for Jaguar engine, Colnel...

    Even the GE F-414 is selling each engine for about $10 millions per engine...

    I am not sure where you got those numbers...


    I have a better suggestion for IAF - go with Gripen, F-16V, or F/A-18...

    India will get about 35 to 40 brand new and formidable fighters for the $3 billions...

    Everyone junked Jaguars and they will start falling from skies more often in India if they keep flying...trust me, guaranteed...

    No offense intended...Best regards...

  9. India could end up bankrupting itself if it continues to push for 45 squadrons @ these prices. How many mig-21 is Rafael equal to? Is there a real need for 45?

    Why does india think about fighting 2-front war or are we preparing for "SURGICAL STRIKES" against all our neighbors simultaneously to satisfy the Bhakts lust for manhood? We are becoming a laughing stock. The story about destroying a camp in Myanmar, with 10's of rebels killed, well turned out to be a hoax and the movie of the latest strikes is currently being shot at LoC.

  10. I have spent a lot of time reading into the events that occurred over the past 2 weeks. Why did our NSA have a chat with Ms Rice PRIOR to the 'SuGicaL Strikes'? Why did he then call the Pak NSA on the 30th? Is it to tell them look, we are going to do a media blitz, don't worry and PLEASE tell those bad boys over the LoC not to start believing that this is a real WAR. He is good.

  11. This means this govt is balancing cost/value and performance ! This by using money saved from buying just 36 Rafales.
    Just hope the jaguar re-engine is done quickly, it has been hanging for too many years.


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