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SOURCE: KARTIKEYA SEMWAL / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

Now that we all know that that by the end of 2019, IAF will be down to just 30- 32 squadrons as against the sanctioned strength of 42; it’s high time that the Govt. of India (GOI) & HAL should focus on addressing the issue of falling fighter squadrons of Indian Air-Force (IAF). HAL that has been tasked with producing the indigenous LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Tejas Mk-1 & 1A has just produced 16 of the first 40 Tejas Mk-1s. So ironically, HAL has failed to produce even 1 full squadron of Tejas jets despite passage of 1 & ½ years which is very slow.

While our threatening neighbors Pakistan & China are adding new fighters in considerable numbers every year. The latest news about Pakistan was that, it would start getting JF-17 block-III from July-August this year. Similarly, China too is adding J-20 5th generation fighters at a good pace while India lags behind in this race. Now HAL says that it isn’t easy to produce Tejas Mk-1 and later Mk-1As as the first one has to be built from scrap while the 2 nd one is much different in terms of parts, engines & aerodynamics, etc. HAL also blames lack of proper infrastructure to produce the Tejas jets at a faster pace.

Now my question is-“who is stopping you (HAL) to upgrade & increase your production capacities?” Another point to be noted is- “when you (HAL) know that you can’t produce the jets faster on your own, then why not take help of some private Indian firms such as Tata & Mahindra, both of who have the infrastructure & required skilled manpower.” These are the 2 questions that GOI should be asking HAL & ensure that HAL delivers 16-18 fighters to IAF every year.

Tejas Mk-1 is a good 4 th + gen. fighter while Mk-1A is even better. I’m now going to provide you with details of Tejas Mk-1A regarding how is it better & more potent Mk-1. Tejas Mk-1A has the following upgrades that are lacking in Mk-1:-

1. Indigenous Uttam AESA Radar co-developed with Israel’s ELTA corp.

2. More modern Avionics with improved design & S-shaped wind tunnels.

3. Aircraft’s weight reduced by 1000 kg from its initial weight of 6500 kg.

4. Made maintenance friendly by re-configuring some of its LRUs and proper distribution of the dead weight in the aircraft.

5. In-flight refuelling capability & on-board Oxygen Generation System.

6. Integrated electro-optic Electronic Warfare (EW) sensor.

7. Integration of BVRs like Astra and Derby (I, II) with short & medium range.

8. Integration of Aircraft Parachutes at the back to will help pilot to land the aircraft if it’s brakes fail.

9. DRDO (Defence Research & Development Organization) and GOI is also in talks with Israeli defence firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, to acquire most modern version of Derby-III BVR missiles which have the range of 60-90 km.

10. Home grown dry-thrust Kaveri engine which on completion, will be fitted to Mk1-A variants. Kaveri Engine will have thrust equivalent to America’s GE414 engine, and will be fitted to 2D TVC thrust vectoring nozzles.

11. Self-protection electronic jammer & decoy chaffs to confuse & divert enemy missiles & rockets.

Now let’s get back to HAL as to why should they boost production of Tejas jets. I’ve already mentioned about the shortage of fighters in IAF so let’s move on to other things. A total of 40 Tejas Mk-1 & 83 Mk-1As are to be delivered to IAF by 2025 but I strongly believe that going by the number of fighter-jet induction of our dangerous neighbors, HAL should try to deliver all Tejas jets by 2022- 23. Coz in case of a two-front war, India will be fighting on 2 fronts which is going to be very tough; thanks to just 30-32 squadrons of IAF. If HAL succeeds to do so, then by 2022-23, IAF could have as many as 38-40 squadrons which is much better then 30-32.

Also, we should not forget that India also needs medium combat aircrafts (MCA) for which HAL is also pursuing the MWF program (medium weight fighter) to end its dependence on foreign countries for providing such fighters at a huge price. In order to save time & get the MWF program fast on track with first prototypes coming by 2022, HAL can & should setup a modern production facility. This facility should exclusively adhere to MWF & India’s AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft); so that by 2025, IAF gets & should be flying the indigenous MWF, completely developed & built in India. This will also help project India as a competitive jet-fighter manufacturing country across the world, and will bring much needed FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in terms of foreign currency, & will in-turn boost India’s economy.

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