SOURCE: MANJUNATH REDDDY/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Exactly 30 years ago, in last week of September month of 1987, Israeli Cabinet voted to halt development of the Lavi fighter jet, which was to be Israel’s which was to be Israel’s main advanced combat aircraft for the 1990’s.
Program was canceled as a result of pressure from the Reagan Administration and instead, Israel went on to purchase 90 less-expensive American-made F-16 fighters were brought instead which will follow on contracts expanded to 200 units over the years but lead to Lavi once dubbed as most advanced 4th generation fighter jet ever developed went to scrapyard instead of production line and how Tejas MK-2 might see repeat of Israel’s Lavi fate due powerful American lobbying.
Lavi fighter jet was developed from American military aid and technology and when the program started generating lot of buzz around, leading to making countries making a beeline to inquire about the product US Defence lobby saw it has a threat to American-made F-16 fighter aircraft in export market and under Amercian pressure Israel was first made to agree that Lavi will not be exported ever and once that was secured US Defence lobby went into counter-offensive .
To accommodate F-16s in Israeli air force fleet, the requirement for Lavi dropped from initial internal assessment from 200 units to 120 units and later hovered around only 80 units. With Production order for only 80 units and no export guarantees given to American administration meant that the aircraft was more expensive than the F-16 on offer.
Many in Israeli air force and the government started opposing Lavi fighter jet due to rising cost but kept ignoring commitments made by state-owned Israel Aircraft Industries which had promised that prices will fall once the original indented order was restored for 120-200 units.
But Lavi fighter program also saw support withing Israeli air force but people were divided due to large-scale anti program propaganda unleashed by Israeli media on behalf of the American administration and the final nail came when a year before Reagan Administration threatened to reduce annual United States military assistance to Israel if the Lavi fighter program was not canceled and if they do then military assistance will be increased .
India’s Tejas MK-2 lacks any order commitment from Indian Air force and Indian Navy which means unless program gets massive bulk production orders for 120+ jets, project might be declared un-economical, Yet it is unlikely Tejas MK-2 with firm order of more than 120+ units will be costing more than American F-16 Block 70 which will be Made in India, but a reduced order or no order at all and easy availability of F-16 Block 70 in India might create pressure on Indian government to abandon the project altogether and focus only on India’s 5th Generation AMCA project .
American Defence lobby will see India’s Tejas MK-2 program has a threat to its F-16 and F-18 chances in India not due to technological aspect but due to India’s limited budget set for IAF’s modernization and procurement over next twenty years. American administration along with subcontractors can create pressure on Indian government to support them with more military orders even though they are not so keen on the transfer of technology to India.