SOURCE: JATIN RAM / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
After months of suspense and the recent uproar over the non-committal attitude of the Indian Air Force and clarification that nearly six squadrons which translate into 108 jets will be procured and further orders might be looked at in the future finally clears the mist that has been building over the program for a while now.
In 2018, IAF was considering acquiring 12 squadrons (216) of LCA Mk2 but that in 2022 is almost half with official funding for the program yet to be granted. HAL has started work on the assembly of the first LCA Mk2 that came from the FSED phase 2/3 funds that were originally marked for F-414 engine-equipped Tejas Mk1 airframe, a program that started as a re-engine program as translated into a full-fledged program for a medium class fighter jet that has evolved from 2017 onwards even till 2020.
HAL requires funds for the development of 3 more LCA Mk2 jets that are marked to be used for developmental and weapons trials and funds for the same must be allocated so as not to affect the program or cause any delays. AMCA program might not be officially received funds yet but at least it had received seed money for the design and development of the program, unlike the LCA Mk2 program that never happened and whatever money that was left from the LCA Mk1 program.
IAF has committed to procure 7 squadrons of AMCA jets and it will be interesting to see if orders will see a rise but restricting LCA Mk2 orders to just 7 squadrons seems to be a calculated move to give the AMCA program a chance and also to see if additional squadrons can be accommodated instead of the LCA Mk2 jets but it will be near impossible to match LCA Mk2 and AMCA in terms of procurement and operational cost and at best IAF will have funds only for 1-2 additional AMCA Squadrons that still gives chances for additional orders for the LCA Mk2.
LCA Mk2 is very important to fill the gap that will be left by the Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 fleet from 2030 onwards and funds for the program must be given to the developers so that it can be developed at right time and can make or break the IAF’s modernization plans.