SOURCE: RAJU GAEKWAD / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Indian Air Force operates a wide and varied combat fighter aircraft fleet procured from Russia, France and the United Kingdom.The service has a projected requirement of at least 45 Squadrons to counter a two-front combined threat emerging from Pakistan and China, but the service today is down to 33 active fighter squadrons has against authorised strength of 42.5 squadrons.
Indian Air Force despite facing several multiple issues with maintaining multiple fleets of aircraft from multiple sources is far from moving away in maintaining common fighter aircraft even for its future requirements. While it continues to face a decline in its combat potentials and several serviceability issues dodging its ageing fleet. Indian Air force for its future requirements again has adopted a multi-pronged approach to building up its compact capabilities.
Indian Air Force in future will largely comprise of Russian suppliers Sukhoi-30MKI along with Dassault Rafale, in addition, will be Fifth generation fighter platforms like FGFA and India’s very own AMCA to cater threat perceptions behind 2030. The government of India is also discussing to acquire a single engine fighter type under governments make in India initiative to be manufactured in India and the contenders are Saab Gripen E and Lockheed Martin F-16 Block-70.
The Indian government has also hinted that there will be an another tender to procure of Twin engine Fighter Aircraft for Indian Air Force requirements under separate tender. Indian Air Force has also decided to procure homegrown Tejas fighter (MK1 & MK1A) and will also continue to develop Tejas MK2 fighters largely to replace soon to be retired MiG-21 fighter jets in Light Fighter type category.
Indian Air Force will take deliveries of 36 Rafale by 2022. Dassault Rafale will be first Swing role aircraft in IAF’s inventory and will confer a substantial increase in the strike and combat power to the Indian Air Force. Dassault Rafale will also introduce Indian Air Force Ultra long-range Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile in the region.
Current modernization and upgrade plan of the existing combat aircraft fleet will also deliver a better than 1:1 improvement in the capability for aircraft such has Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and Jaguars, which together account for approximately 11 Combat squadrons.
Unlike worldwide trend adopted by all major air forces around the world, Indian Air force instead of reducing its combat aircraft fleet types is clearly going against the trend and in fact will be operating much more types of aircraft in its combat fleet in near future than in its past.
Will a mixed fleet of new fighters and upgrade to existing platforms will help India retain the combat edge for its air force is still debatable approach.
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