Air Chief Chaudhari recently made an alarming statement that the Indian Air Force (IAF) will not be able to achieve 42 squadron strength in the next 10-15 years, instead, IAF will work to achieve to get to 35 squadrons in this time frame with new inductions. While Air Chief backed both LCA-AF Mk2 and AMCA Program he also in his candid admission said that these projects won’t mature by 2030 and even if they do remain on a schedule they won’t be able to meet squadron requirements when they start entering into service.

LCA-AF Mk2 along with AMCA will start entering service only in 2030 onwards and AMCA Mk2 which IAF desires in large numbers will enter production only in 2035 onwards thus ensuring that plans to achieve 42 squadron strength to deal with possible two-front war won’t be realized thus seriously affecting the combat capabilities of the air force for a long time to come.

73 Tejas Mk1A recently ordered by IAF will start coming from 2023 onwards and it is expected to be delivered by 2028-29, before production moves to the LCA-AF Mk2 but the problem is that at the initial stage production run of Mk2 will be slow and there also lies the possibility of the project facing technical and developmental delays due to which production line might remain idle from 2028-29 to 2032.

Even if the Mk2 project remains on schedule it still won’t be able to curb the decline in the squadron levels till AMCA Mk2 starts getting inducted in large numbers from the 2035-40 period thus IAF should consider placing orders for a much more advanced variant of the Tejas Mk1A when it still at the production stage where it is possible to get quickly 60-80 more jets in 3-4 years.

Tejas Mk1B needs to be equipped with much more advanced avionics and weaponry rather than the fancy new equipment like an engine that could lead to delay and kill the need for such development. Tejas Mk1B in fact should be equipped with LCA-AF Mk2 Avionics, New Digital Cockpit to maintain commonality with the newly inducted jets thus also ensuring that the issue of technology obsolescence is also addressed. HAL is working to ensure Tejas Mk1A has an annual production run of 21 jets from 2025 onwards and if planned properly Mk1B can become reality in 3 years, while Mk1A is still under production thus leading to the quick addition of 3-4 squadrons in a short time, no doubt LCA-AF Mk2 will come in numbers at the later stage it’s not clear when HAL will be able to hit its peak annual production when production starts in 2028-29 this period from 2028 to 2032 can be utilized to procure Mk1B to fill up the number in a short time and come close to the sanctioned squadron strength.

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Article by TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR , cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or