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Indian Air Force Fighter / Attack Aircraft

DRDO's Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) had long strugged with the single Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. By 2020 ADA was being asked to juggle four different fighter programs - Tejas Mk1A, Tejas MWF-Mk2, AMCA and the newly added TEDBF Twin-Engine Deck Based Fighter. It was going to be a tedious task for ADA to handle such 4 projects simultaneously since the MWF-Mk2, TEDBF, AMCA fighter program all have their first flight deadlines by 2022, 2026 and 2025. The Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) of India was to be commenced for the Indian Navy after Navy refused to come aboard the LCA-Mk2 program due to concern regarding its single-engine configuration. The Aeronautical Development Agency soon revealed that it will now develop a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) for the Indian Navy (IN) instead of persisting with the development of a Mk2 variant of the LCA-Navy (NLCA) design. The Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) is being projected to enter service with the Indian Navy in the early 2030s as a replacement for the existing Russian-built MiG-29K fighter. The program will run concurrently with ADAs other programs such as the Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) [formerly the Tejas Mk2] and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) projects.

In candor, it is implausible that ADA can deliver three or major fighter programs nearly simultaneously. As of 2020, therefore, the outstanding question must be the sequence in which these various projects fall be the wayside, and what if anything emerges in their stead. The near term lower risk Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) seems to have performance similar to that of the longer term higher risk Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA), which offers stealth. The Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) is projected as a low risk twin-engine version of the single-engine Medium Weight Fighter (MWF), but even a glance at the artwork suggests the TEBDF is an entirely new airplane. And stalking these "Make in India" aircraft are well established interntional competitors such as the F/A-18E/F and Rafale.

By early 2006 the oldest MiG-21s - nearly 100 Type 77 aircraft - acquired in the early 1970s had reached the end of their 3,000-hour service life and were retired in 2007, causing the single largest void in the air force. At least 500 other aircraft were to be phased out by 2015, including over 100 MiG-27 strike fighters, causing a gap in the IAF's ground attack capabilities. The last two MiG-23 squadrons, purchased in the 1970s, were retired in 2006, a year before their planned retirement as part of an accelerated phase-out of old aircraft with unreliable engines. A squadron of MiG-25 strategic recce aircraft was de-inducted on 01 May 2006. Replying to a query whether with the phasing-out of the Mig-25 the IAF reconnaissance needs were affected, Air Chief Marshal Fali H Major said 13 February 2009 that the role of ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) was a part and parcel of any Air Force and that the IAF has it. He also stated that there are better and efficient ways of getting ISR.

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F.H. Major said in July 2007 that the air force wanted to reduce the inventory in its combat jet arsenal to three aircraft systems only, and over the next few years, it would use the home-made Tejas as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the new MRCAs as the Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) and the 35-ton SU-30MKIs as the Heavy Combat Aircraft (HCA). Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal F H Major said in February 2009 that "Our plan is to use Su-30 MKIs, MRCAs, Tejas, upgraded Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 as well as Jaguar aircraft."

Contracts were signed 19 December 2011 with M/s Thales, France, along with M/s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the upgrade of the Mirage 2000 aircraft of the Indian Air Force, with M/s HAL for upgrade of the Jaguar aircraft and with M/s RAC-MiG Russia for upgrade of the MiG-29 aircraft. The cost of the contract for upgrade of the Mirage 2000 with the M/s Thales, France is Euro 1470 million while the cost of the contract with HAL is 2020 crores. The upgrade of the aircraft is expected to be completed by mid 2021. The cost of upgrade of the MiG-29 aircraft is USD 964 million and it is expected to be completed by 2016. The cost for upgrade of the Jaguar aircraft is Rs.3113.02 crores and the aircraft are expected to be upgraded by December 2017.

A multibillion dollar deal for the procurement of 126 Dassault Rafale fighter jets was initially agreed to in January 2012. Continued negotiations have since then held up a fiinal contract agreement. The question of production-licensing to India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was said to have been a sticking points thouth reports have surfaced saying that HAL would ultimately be responsible for 70 per cent of the work on the 108 planes that are to be manufactured in India, while the first 18 fighter aircraft are to be fully manufactured in France. India was reported in some media sources to have warned in September 2012 that it would cancel the Rafale contract fighter jets if Paris refused to fulfil its obligations under the Mistral contract agreed to with Russia.

Outgoing IAF Chief Arup Raha indicated 28 December 2016 that the service required more aircraft in the middle weight category to give the entire spectrum of capability. Adding that India has enough Russian-origin Sukhoi-30 MKI heavyweight combat aircraft, Raha said, "We are still inducting Sukhoi-30s; it will last us for another 40 years. The Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) will fill some void in the lightweight category." Raha indicated the need for 200-250 medium weight combat aircraft in next five to 10 years but would like them to be manufactured in India.

Indias Defense Research and Development Organisation, the designers of Tejas, expected the current order of 83 combat jets to completed only after a decade or more. The first aircraft itself may take another two years if everything goes according to schedule. Currently about 250 MiG-21 series fighters are waiting to be replaced. The high level Defense Acquisition Committee on 07 November 2016 cleared the procurement of 83 light combat aircraft (LCA) put together by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

On 04 January 2019, replying to the opposition charge of irregularities in the fighter jet purchase from France, the Indian Defence Minister has justified it while informing Parliament that the fighter jet strength of the country had fallen substantially during the last decade in contrast to China & Pakistan, who had been adding air power. "China added over 400 fighter jet between 2004-15. Pakistan doubled their number of F-16s and added 43 JF-17 planes to its air force. India had 33 squadrons in 2015, down from 40 in 2004," Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Defence said while replying during the debate on controversial Rafale deal.

On 29 June 2016 it was announced that Rafael will supply 164 examples of its Litening targeting pod to the Indian air force, for use on four types of combat aircraft including New Delhis Sukhoi Su-30 fighters. The pods will be delivered over severl years. The Litening 4I advanced version of the Litening will be supplied. The improved system was been equipped with upgraded infrared cameras and a charge-coupled device color camera to help identify targets on the ground, particularly dense areas. The new version double as a surveillance and reconnaissance system in addition to being a targeting pod. In February it was announced that the Litening acquisition waspart of a larger $500 million deal between India and Israel, with the Rafael Spice 250 precision-guided bombs also provided to New Delhi.



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Page last modified: 21-11-2021 18:39:21 ZULU