SOURCE: KRISHNA SHARMA/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
India is one among the largest importer of defense equipment. Airforce has a variety of aircraft of which most of them are Russians. At present, the squadron strength is low to 31 squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons consisting of 18 planes per squadron.
Aircrafts operated by Indian Airforce are Mig-21, Mig-27, Mig-29, Jaguar, Mirage-200, Su-30 MKI and LCA. MIG-21 One of the best aircraft of that time now has operated for around 25-30 years in India which is way beyond the expected life of an aircraft. India now operates around 10 squadrons of them which are expected to be decommissioned within next 4 years. Mig-21’s now operated by Air Force is the upgraded Bison version. It has a very high landing and take off speed.
Next aircraft to be decommissioned are Mig-27 and Jaguar. As of now, India has ordered 36 Rafale and 40 homegrown LCA. Till date only 6 LCA have been delivered to Airforce and HAL still has to pick the pace.
Back in 2010 India and Russia had signed an agreement for 5th generation fighter aircraft, of which both India and Russia would have an equal share of 50% right now which is of the track if we believe in some unconfirmed sources.
Possible aircraft in India can buy are FA-18, F-16, Rafale, Eurofighter, Grippen and possibly Mig-35. Maybe government might right off the choices if F-16 and Grippen as we have Tejas of the same class which is a homegrown aircraft and has to be produced in considerable numbers. Rafale and Fa-18 have huge cost escalation and costs much when compared to other aircraft. Also, these aircraft have the old technology of 1980/90 and all US aircraft come with a number of T&C which is difficult to go ahead as India rely’s on the number of technologies from different countries. Hence we are left with two choices. Eurofighter and Mig-35. Mig-35 has an upper hand as India has already operated Mig-29 and Mig-35 is stated as the upgraded version of the beasts Mig-29 which has no match in its class until today.
But really are Mig-35 aircrafts reliable or is it also like the other aircraft of Mig corporation. But what is really not reliable parts of Russian aircraft? Mainly engine, poorly built quality. If Airforce buys more aircraft we can build them in India where we can take care of built quality. So the next part is Unreliable Russian engines. It might be resolved with homegrown indigenous Kaveri engine. MOD can go ahead and have Kaveri engine fitted into MIG-35 and can have it inducted so that we can have much TOT as India and Russia has a good relationship, as well as HAL, has built a number of aircraft of Russia, especially from MIG Corporation.
Next need is a 5th generation fighter as one among the immediate neighboring enemy China has already inducted the home-grown 5th generation fighter aircraft. So if IAF goes ahead with the Indo-Russian 5th generation fighter aircraft with good number IAF can make up it’s depleting squadron strength.
Finally, maybe IAF can have a possible mix of (Taking into consideration as 20 planes per squadron)
Pak-FA – 5 squadrons
Mig-35 – 5 squadrons
Su-30MKI – 15 squadrons
LCA -15 squadrons.
Rafale – 3 squadrons.
Which can make up the IAF strength back to 40 odd squadrons with some other aircraft which IAF already has in its inventory.Later on, when the home-grown 5th gen aircraft AMCA is ready they can replace Su-30’s and maybe if there are no budget constraints IAF can go ahead with more number of squadrons.