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SOURCE: RAJESH AHUJA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

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IAF chief Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari in an interview with the media confirmed that steps will be taken to push for the procurement of 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA), under the Make in India initiative, rather than opting for another 36 Rafale fighter jets. 2022 will see IAF actively pushing for a new 4.5-generation fighter with “some fifth-generation capabilities” for over Rs 1.25 lakh crore.

ACM Chaudhari also added that “In MRFA, most of the contenders have the 4.5 generation technology. One of the key features that we are seeking is the ability to integrate 5th and 6th generation technology. It will be a Make in India model,”. Dassault Rafale still seems to be the top contender to win the race but paying $120 million per unit for a 4.5Gen jet that allegedly is equipped with some 5thGen capacities still doesn’t seem to make sense when prices of the 5th generation fighters are already hitting below $100 million per unit mark recently.

If the objective of the IAF is to have 5th gen or 6th gen capabilities from a 4.5 gen aircraft then why is IAF is reculant to procure AMCA Mk1 in larger numbers rather than limiting it to the just Two squadrons that it intends to procure. The country’s around the world who are already operating 4.5 gen fighters procured decades ago are planning to procure upgrades and modernization kits that can give Avionics, Radars, and Electronic warfare capabilities that were originally made for the 5th gen programs so technology obsolescence issues are rectified and also keep the older jet technological relevant.

MRFA winner even if selected by 2023 will take another 2-3 years before can contract can be executed and will require 4-5 years before the local production line is set up and Transfer of technology takes place for rollout of the first Made in India Jet. IAF will not get the first jet out of MRFA Tender at least not before 2028 even if there is some urgency shown in the MRFA tender. AMCA Mk1 is supposedly entering production sometime in 2029-30.

If IAF believes that AMCA Mk1 that will be classified as a 5th gen fighter jet will be superior to any MRFA jet that will come out in 2028 then why procure such an inferior jet for a price that will be significant as expensive as a 5th generation fighter just doesn’t make any sense. IAF plans to procure just 5 Squadrons of AMCA MK2 and 2 Squadrons of AMCA Mk1 but is ready to procure 7 Squadrons of MRFA jet for a price range that after local production might be in the range of $100-130 million per unit when it can expand production of AMCA Mk1 place orders for 5 Squadrons and let AMCA Mk2 a 5.5 gen jet that takes over production line in 2035 for another 5 Squadrons and then plans for 5 more Squadrons of AMCA Mk3 with 6th gen capabilities so that it can start replacing older Su-30s from 2040 onwards.

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