SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
2021 was a great year for the aerospace industry in the country since, after almost 50 years, the Indian Air Force (IAF) had agreed to procure 83 Tejas Mk1A jets built locally in the country. The last such purchase was for the 175 HF-24 “Marut” jet that was inducted in the late ’60s that was prematurely retired by the mid-’80s due to the availability of cheaper Migs.
Fast forward to 2022, fighter jets are no longer being offered at ridiculous prices due to the advancement in the cost of avionics and sensors that make up 30-40% of the cost of the aircraft now. Procurement cost is even much higher in the 5th generation offerings so are the operating costs and with rising aviation fuel costs, operating a large fleet of imported aircraft is becoming way more difficult for an air force that has a sanctioned squadron strength of 750 combat jets but is unable to operate that many jets.
123 Tejas Mk1A is a small investment made within the country and it is expected that IAF will be ordering 150 MK2 jets that will be followed by at least 250 AMCA Mk1/2/3 jets by 2045. 2035 onwards, Jaguars, Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 fleet will all be gone and they must be replaced by locally developed fighter jets like Mk2 but by 2040 onwards nearly 100 Su-30MKI from the first batch will due for its retirement and they are room to acquire at least 80-100 ORCA an AF variant of the TEDBF that is under development for the Navy.
8 Squadrons of Dassault Rafale should be the only aircraft fleet that should be made up of the rest 20% beyond 2040 as the transition from manned to unmanned combat jets might have already begun but these additional unmanned jets will act as force multipliers rather than as a supplement to the manned jets since the combined requirement for fighting a two-front war could require least 1000 combat jets that can be achieved with a combination of manned and unmanned.
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