SOURCE: Punit Wagajkar/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
A clash between two fighter planes depends on much more on the skill of the pilots flying them then the technologies incorporated in them. Many examples can be presented where a Russian fighter has drowned its western counterparts. Similar is true vice-versa. In many instances, the aircraft involved were at the same technology level. So it is true that the pilot matters the most.
Coming to the competition, are the two contenders really capable of making itself into IAF? Gripen is a multi-national component machine, similar to Tejas. It’s C/D version are not battle proven. Gripen-E is still an evolutionary phase. 40% of its parts are procured from the USA. So, as per analysts, USA can pull the plugs on Gripen by any hook or crook and that too at a time of its choosing.
So choosing such an aircraft, which will be grounded in global circumstances, is really not a good option. Now even Bulgaria and Slovakia are rethinking their strategy of replacing their fighter squadrons with Gripen.
F-16 is battle proven. It is the most sold aircraft in the world. But it is still a vintage beast. It is being operated by our adversaries from many years. They know of each and every trick that this plane can provide. If it is procured, it will take many years to get adapted to it and still Pakistan and China can have an upper hand during clashes. Block 70 will not bring much more advantage as compared to block 50/52 if the experts are to be believed. Moreover, USA can compel us to play a part in its drama of being a world police, which we should avoid at all cost. Let the USA become dependent on us, then we become dependant on the USA.
They are not ready to shed away with IPR. So a difficult choice to be made. It can turn into another procuring for assembling fiasco. So why should go for these both? Swedish believe in their Gripen. The USA believes in its f-16. Even Pakistanis believe in their of-17. So why can’t we Indians believe in our own bird i.e. Tejas.?
We can tie up with one of our private aerospace giants to ramp up its production. Every aircraft has its own pros and cons. But believing more in pros of our beast than its cons will make us more competitive. Still, if IAF persists with a foreign, battle proven, single-engine fighter, we should ask the French for a total TOT of Mirage 2000-5 Mk2.
Whenever any fighter has been upgraded as per IAF requirements, they were believed to be one of the bests. For e.g. Sukhoi 30mki, Mig-29 kub. The maintenance issues have arisen due to faulty agreements made with OEMs. But similarly, if we can incorporate aesa radar onto mirage 2000-5 Mk2 and weaponize it with Mica and Meteor, it can still be a relatively deadly 4.5 generation aircraft. UPA govt. lost an opportunity because of its own undoing. What will be the French response today needs to be seen. But this NDA govt. with an aggressive foreign policy can bring the mirage manufacturing facility to India.
No training required, it can be put into service with the first machine manufactured. French are ready for manufacturing rafale under made in India which is a good news. But looking at its cost and our requirement of a single-engine fighter, upgraded mirage 2000-5 Mk3 can be a better option along with Tejas. This will also relieve us from universal dependency. If agreements with French are made wisely, we can get tot for mirage as well as much short range air to air missiles. Moreover when Turkish f-16 clashed against Greek mirage 2000, f-16 bit the dust.
So for single-engine aircraft believe and ramp up Tejas production. If other aircraft is required go for a mirage. Super Sukhoi 30 upgrade and starting work on AMCA asap is the requirement of time. Start with N-AMCA.