SOURCE: ABHOY ROY / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
When LCA-Tejas was proposed in early 80’s, idea was to replace bulk of Soviet-era Mig-21s variants which made up nearly 50% of the fleet strength of the Indian Air Force with an indigenous plane to break free India’s dependence from foreign fighter aircraft manufactures.
As India’s threat perception evolved, one to one replacement of Mig-21 with LCA-Tejas was long abandoned and by the time aircraft entered production it had confirmed orders for only 123 jets which is far less production run than originally anticipated.
LCA-Tejas for long remained Mig-21 replacement aircraft and failed to be recognized as an aircraft which can also replace many other fighter aircraft in IAF’s fleet leading to blocked vision. As soon as LCA-Tejas was airborne attempts were made to develop a twin-engined MCA which could replace other multi-role aircraft at fraction of the cost back then but it was immediately rejected for that exclusive race for 5th generation fighter jet technology which India is yet to join.
Twin-engined LCA could have addressed void which Mig-23/27 retirement will leave. India’s failed MMRCA tender too could have been replaced by locally developed Twin-engined LCA which could have saved the massive amount of investment which India spend on procuring just 36 Dassault Rafale and another round of billions in investment to procure single-engined fighter jets and twin-engined fighter jets.
Procurement of 100 Single-engined fighter jets along with 100 more twin-engined jets under Make in India initiative is completely sidelining India’s Made in India fighter jets like LCA-Tejas and also has failed India’s attempts to break its over-dependence on foreign aerospace companies for its fighter jet requirements.
We may buy F-16/Gripen or Rafale/Mig-35/F-18 for our Single-engined and twin-engined fighter requirements, but the fact remains for India is that, even after mastering 4.5 generation fighter technology, even after making rocky turbulent transaction from 2nd Generation HF-24 Marut technology to 4.5 Generation fighter technology, we are still procuring 4.5 generation fighter aircraft which were all convinced nearly 40 or more years back at the country while, the very same countries who want to supply India their vintage 4.5 generation technology have already started works on 6th Generation fighter programs .