SOURCE: Anand SG / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
After placing orders for Modernized Tejas MK-1A , Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha made a bizarre statement in the media that air force will order and induct LCA-Tejas (MK-1A) in its current form and have no immediate requirement or plans for the development of Mark-2 variant of LCA-Tejas which it has been backing until a few years back .
It’s no secret that Current State of operational preparedness of Indian Air force is not at its optimal level and combat squadron fleet has already fallen to 28 Squadron from sanctioned 42 Squadrons and with phased retirement of Mig-21 and Mig-27 already underway for next three years , Squadron strength dangerously will slide below 25 Squadrons if future inductions does not take place at much higher rate .
A final contract for 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault France will not help much even if the contract is signed by the end of this month since Airforce will be getting less than a third of jets it had demanded originally under MMRCA tender for 126 jets and further delays are expected by Defence ministry to decide which another jet it plans to acquire to fill and meet original requirement of combat jets set by airforce.
Sukhoi-30MKI’s which are called the backbone of Indian Air Force is still suffering from low serviceability due which its operational availability at a given point of time for combat aerial patrol is still pegged at 55 % and even after direct intervention of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar it is yet to reach desired 70-75% operational availability mark further hampering overhaul operational preparedness of the airforce .
Indo-Russian 5th Generation FGFA fighter jet program is yet to take off , while on and off media reports indicate that some level of consensus has been reached between India and Russia on its development cost and workshare agreements but Airforce too has reduced its original initial requirement from 250 FGFA fighter jets to 144 and later further reduced down to 114 aircraft, which indicate low confidence on performance of the jet at current stage . Since India and Russia are yet to ink final agreements on joint venture it can be safely assumed that formation of the first squadron might happen only 5-7 years down the line and will not help much in containing squadron strength slide for airforce anytime soon.
India’s own proposed 5th generation AMCA fighter jet is yet to take off from drawing boards and it is unlikely will be ready to enter production by early 2030 due to which it is pretty evident that Induction of large number of fighter jets is still a distant dream for air force and it can ill afford to ignore LCA Tejas Mark-2 which along with LCA Tejas MK-1A will make a difference to Airforce fleet in case it has to fight a two-front war .
With plans to orders for 100 Tejas MK-1A by IAF, Air force is showing confidence in the homegrown fighter jet but faster development and production of Tejas Mark-2 will make a significant contribution in averting an ignominious deficit in IAF in carrying out its duties in securing India’s airspace but also help in maintaining superior performance in event of war .
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