Government admits in Parliament that IAF's fighter shortfall will worsen during NDA’s term - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Wednesday 27 December 2017

Government admits in Parliament that IAF's fighter shortfall will worsen during NDA’s term

Against 34 IAF squadrons in 2014, squadrons numbers will have dwindled to 32 in 2019

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th Dec 17

Answering questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, the government admitted it will not have added even one squadron to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in its five-year term in power.

In an answer tabled in parliament, the defence ministry stated: “IAF will have 32 Fighter Squadrons and 39 Helicopter Units by 2020.”

This means the IAF will have 2-3 fewer squadrons in 2020 than the 34-35 squadrons it fielded in 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the general election and formed the government.

Embarrassingly for the BJP, its 2014 election manifesto had specifically expressed concern about the “loss of squadrons of combat aircraft by the air force” during the United Progressive Alliance term in office, noting that “these are indications of surrendering of India's interest.”

The BJP’s manifesto stated: “This calls for a review and overhauling of the current system.”

The defence ministry was answering a parliamentary question from Anurag Thakur, a BJP MP from Himachal who is the son of Prem Kumar Dhumal, the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate who had to step back after he failed to win his seat.

The government’s response clearly indicated that squadron numbers were declining because of the government’s inability to replace the retiring fleet of MiG-21s.“Three squadrons of MiG-21 aircraft will be phased out by 2020”, stated the government.

Another answer revealed that the situation would only get worse by 2025. Answering another question from Biju Janata Dal MP Arka Keshari Deo, the defence ministry stated: “10 Squadrons of Indian Air Force (IAF) equipped with MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft are scheduled to retire by 2024 on completion of their Total Technical Life.”

On October 5, IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, had stated that, by 2032 – the end of the 15th Defence Plan – the IAF would reach its authorised strength (of 42 squadrons). Towards that, the current government has concluded the procurement of only two squadrons of Rafale fighters, and progressed procurement of six squadrons of indigenous Tejas Mark 1 and Mark 1A (two and four squadrons respectively).

Over the past 15 years, the steady induction of 11 squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters had partially compensated for retiring MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-25 and MiG-27 fighters. But the inflow of Su-30MKIs will end in 2019, when Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is due to deliver the last two squadrons to the IAF.

Besides two Su-30MKI and six Tejas squadrons, two squadrons of Rafales are due for delivery between 2019-2022. However, these would be offset by the retirement of two older Jaguar fighter squadrons in the early 2020s.

With 12 squadrons retiring (ten MiG and two Jaguar), and just ten squadrons joining the fleet (two Su-30MKI, two Rafale and six Tejas), even maintaining the IAF fleet at 32 squadrons – ten less than authorised – would require additional procurements.

Fighter aircraft roadmap

Fighter type


Built by HAL Nashik, production run ends in 2019

Delivery of 36 Rafales from 2019-2022.

Being upgraded by 2018-19, will remain in service till 2032

Mirage 2000
Being upgraded by 2020-21, will remain in service till 2032

Proposal for upgrading four squadrons, to serve till 2040s

Tejas LCA Mk 1
Being built by HAL in Bengaluru by 2019-20.

Tejas LCA Mk 1A
Being developed by HAL by 2019 and built by 2025

Phased out of service by 2020

Phased out of service by 2020

Single-engine fighter (Gripen E or F-16 Block 70)
RFI issued for manufacturing on a new production line in India

Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA)
To be co-developed with Russia and built by HAL in India


In the past, the IAF has twice bought additional Su-30MKIs, and continues regarding that as a convenient option that has the additional advantage of pleasing Moscow and HAL. Alternatively, the government has the option of placing the proposed Indo-Russian “fifth generation fighter aircraft” (FGFA) on the fast track.

Another option that the IAF backs is to order two more squadrons of Rafale fighters. However, with the IAF’s budget already stressed from the two Rafale squadrons already contracted, another two squadrons would require the government to significantly scale up defence allocations.

The more cost-effective alternative with currency within the defence ministry is to progress the procurement of 5-10 squadrons of “single-engine fighters”, for which a “request for information” has already been sent out to global vendors. The favoured contenders are Saab of Sweden, which proposes to build the Gripen E in India; and US major, Lockheed Martin, which wants to transfer its production line to India for building the F-16 Block 70.

As part of this procurement, there are proposals to assist HAL in scaling up Tejas Mark 1A and Mark 2 production, in accordance with “Make in India” objectives.


  1. It takes 4-5 years for delivery on e order is placed . The title does not reflect this ! The failure to sign MRCA deal after declaring L1 will haunt us. Luckily the govt signed an IGA for 36 rafales. Now will order 123 LCA. The LCA will boost the numbers. So will another 36 Rafales that can be ordered in 2019 time frame .
    Tank i

  2. “Cost effective alternative” is more LCA Mk1 and Mk1A followed by Mk2. Stop the nonsense proclaiming SEF as “cheap”.

  3. Even if NDA govt had placed an order for supply of jets on the very first day of taking office their delivery could not have started by 2020. What UPA was waiting for 10 long years is a matter of research.

  4. Title of the post reflects wrong picture! Though the situation is arising during the NDA regime, it is not due to any fault of theirs. The previous regime was in a "policy paralysis", which has taken the country to such grievous situation!

  5. Why not buy the 2nd hand mirage as available off the shelf ...

    What about gripen JV with adani and f16 JV with TATAs

  6. Shows your political leaning by a false headline. Shame shame

  7. Is there is no other topic impacting defence ? Move on , Rafale is a fine aircraft. Ranked no 1 in MMRCA contest. Chapter closed.
    You are becoming a chamcha or a Dalal or both.

    Impact of dam apparently being built across Brahmaputra ?
    How is siachen still being supplied by ancient cheetahs since no decision was made after umpteen trials ? Any quick solutions ?
    For the first time locally assembled electronics is moving ahead of imports, its impact on defence electronics ?
    Impact of ordering large number of Nirbhays and stand off weapons on Air Force structure. How many aircraft should be to carry heavy stand off weapons ?
    Can we make a indian defence version of Android , it is open source.

    There is also so much good news like finally this govt ensure modern helmets begin to reach frontline troops.
    New local BPJ approved . Will be orders soon. Reports say it offers better coverage.

    The Modernised local rifles like Excaliber, Ghaatak, JVP. Being deployed in large numbers. Hopefully soon quality will improve.
    How ACH is being ordered in 15 numbers & HAL will begin to make them early 2018.

  8. Biased opinion....all your articles are against this govt.

  9. The MOST cost-effective way to bridge the shortfall of fighter jets is to forget about purchasing either the Gripen or F-16, and invite the private sector to manufacture the Tejas.

    HAL + private sector can quickly achieve 16+ jets per year by 2020 itself. Who needs F-16s or Gripens ?

  10. your first para is misleading, it is not that they will not add a single squadron, they will but overall numbers will come down!! as phase out rate is more than induction.
    The other thing is how come 270 sukhoi's make up 13 squadrons? it should be 15 if there are 18 in one?
    You say Tejas 6 squadrons will come in by 2025, are you serious!! so far 5 have come in 5 years and expecting 123 by 2025 would mean close to squadron per year, that will not happen till 2021.
    Only thing I agree is more Rafales.

  11. @Anonymous
    UPA was waiting for the IAF to conclude its technical evaluation , no other Air Force has spent so much time in evaluating aircrafts.
    This should be a time bound process and should be between 20-24 months.

  12. The beauty of this is that irrespective of whichever govt is in the center,the state is the same.... Stop blaming congress or BJP. We don't have money to buy the things. It's all propaganda before elections. Nothing major will be procured...

  13. Well after SUR-JI-KAL.02 strike, the Pakistanis have already killed 6 more of our Jawans today. Thats 10-11 jawans in the last week or so. With the MEA Sushma screaming and grand standing whilst the NSA is meeting their NSA over some drinks. What a joke this government has turned out to be. They are making fools of the Indian public.

    Modi Bhakts all over the internet are now begging anyone to bring the Pakistanis down a notch or two. USA has become their new hope. What a sad state of affairs.


  14. Does this mean that the single-engine fighter jet deal is still on the table and not scrapped in favour of Tejas as was reported earlier by the media???!!! Also, will PM Narendra Modo go in for the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 72 for the Indian Air Force [IAF]???!!!


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last