What could be the biggest flip-flop of the Modi Government in modernization of Indian air force after reducing Dassault Rafale order from 126 to just 36 is that Modi Government is actively mulling scrapping of Make in India single engine fighter (SEF) after both Swedish Saab and the American Lockheed Martin refused to Transfer Deep Technology for their Gripen-E and F-16 Block-70 to their selected partner and also trying to maintain a dominant position in their proposed local joint venture.

Request for Information issued under Single engine fighter (SEF) tender by India had called for procurement of at least 100 jets in partnership with the Private Defence companies like Adani and TATA after whichever proposal is declared a winner. Move to push Tejas over Gripen-E and F-16 Block-70 seems to be a classic case of last-minute realization that government doesn’t have enough funds to procure additional Dassault Rafale, along with India’s 5th generation AMCA and FGFA Program still hangs in balance.

IAF already has placed orders for 83 upgraded Tejas MK1A and 40 Tejas MK1 while Tejas MK-2 was sidelined after Navy refused to make it part of future aircraft carrier air fleet due to operational deficiencies in the jet even though Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is yet to make Tejas Mk2 variant into reality.

When Modi Government scrapped MMRCA tender and had floated Single engine fighter (SEF) tender many Defence Analysts had questioned the wisdom of the government on why Tejas Mk2 variant was ignored to make way for imported jets.

After fiddling with the idea to procure 100 + jets from a global vendor, push for Tejas Mk2 variant seems to be an afterthought which lacked sincere effort in the first place. Parrikar as Defence minister was able to push HAL’s proposal for upgraded Tejas MK-1A with Indian airforce and but he was also the guy who mooted the idea of Single engine fighter (SEF) tender along with separate Twin engine fighter tender requirement to replace aging Mig-27 fleet which will be withdrawn from IAF completely by 2019.

Tejas Mk2 will be comparable to Saab proposed Gripen-E which is currently been pushed by Indian Air Force over F-16s which has completed its design potential and has no growth potential and are been replaced by modern next generation 5th generation F-35 fighter jets. Instead of floating Single engine fighter (SEF) tender, Government should have pushed for Tejas Mk2 variant from the very beginning to allow IAF to have bigger Dassault Rafale fleet but recent flip-flops and pressures from Private lobbies will make it difficult for the government to scrap Single engine fighter (SEF) tender for Tejas Mk2 variant.

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