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CREDIT Tatya Vinchu @officialTatya_1

The Indian Air Force (IAF) took a significant step towards achieving its desired 42-squadron force level with an additional order for 97 LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Tejas Mk1A fighter jets. This increased procurement, along with previously approved orders, will propel the IAF closer to its goal of effectively countering aerial threats posed by China and Pakistan.

The IAF aspires to possess 42 squadrons for optimal air defense capabilities. However, the current squadron strength stands at 31, falling short of the target. The plan is to achieve the 42-squadron target by 2027, which most likely won’t happen.

The IAF already operates 36 Tejas Mk1 variants and has placed orders for 18 LCA-Tejas Trainers. With the inclusion of the new orders (73 Tejas Mk1A and 97 Tejas Mk1A), the IAF’s Tejas fleet is projected to reach 224 by 2032-33. This substantial addition will significantly bolster the IAF’s fighter jet strength.

While the Tejas order is a major positive development, the IAF is also pursuing other avenues to bridge the squadron gap. The IAF is hopeful of receiving approval to procure 114 jets under the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) program. Additionally, they recently secured permission for 12 more Su-30MKI fighter jets.

An IAF squadron typically consists of 18-20 fighter jets of the same type. Considering the upcoming inductions, the IAF expects to have around 314 fighter jets by mid-2035. This translates to an increase of 17 squadrons.

However, it’s important to account for phasing out older jets. The IAF is scheduled to retire two MiG-21 squadrons by 2025 and two Jaguar squadrons by 2030. To achieve the 42-squadron target, the IAF likely will have at least two additional squadrons of Tejas MkII by 2033-34.

The increased order for Tejas Mk1A fighter jets signifies a crucial step for the IAF in bolstering its air defense capabilities and inching closer to the long-desired 42-squadron target. The IAF’s multi-pronged approach, including the Tejas procurement, MRFA program, and additional Su-30MKI jets, demonstrates a commitment to achieving optimal air deterrence against potential threats.