IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari when asked about the number of LCA Mark -II that IAF will procure said that we will take a call on it when the first production model comes, this is a drastic u-turn by the IAF’s top brass since in 2018, IAF had ‘committed’ to procure 201 LCA Mk2 fighters but that figure came down to 170 in 2020 and 2022 even that assurance seems to have been gone now.

IAF commitment for 201 LCA Mk2 earlier in addition to the 123 LCA Mk1/1A order (83+40) along with IAF tender for 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) with 7 squadrons for the upcoming AMCA program could have meant the addition of nearly 550 jets in next 20 years of fleet modernization program but IAF being non-committal on LCA Mk2 means vacuum left by the retirement of Mig-27 and Mig-21 in recent years could mean that IAF will not be able to reach the sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons in the next 10-15 year.

AMCA program is still in the design and development phase and will take a lot of time to mature and MRFA tender itself will take another 3 years before the contract is inked and might take another 6-7 years before IAF gets ordered jets, not before mid ‘2030s.

LCA Mk2 rollout has been planned for later this year but with no funds granted for manufacturing of 3 more additional prototypes required to complete its developmental phase, it seems LCA Mk2 has been set upped to fail from the word go said defense expert Ranesh Rajan to Rajan added that LCA Mk2 was supposed to be a bridge between LCA Mk1A and AMCA that could have promoted innovation and growth in the industry with such announcements no private sector companies might be looking to be part of the LCA Mk2 program and might focus on AMCA program.

LCA Mk2 was once touted to replace IAF’s framed Mirage-2000, Jaguar and Mig-29 fleet from 2035 onwards, this non-committal of IAF will create a much bigger void on who will be replacing these jets as most of them are nearing 40 years of service.

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