Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari after taking over the Big seat pushed for the procurement of 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) amid rumors of a settled deal with the government that could have cleared the procurement of 36 second batch of Dassault Rafales that the outgoing IAF chief and the government had worked out, but now the new Chief is pushing for the procurement of 90 Rafale in batches before IAF agrees to cancel much delayed MRFA again but this quest for ultra-expensive Rafales even in batches could put IAF’s financial position in a spot that could hurt its modernization plans.

Air operations in the Kargil war exposed lack of High altitude operation capabilities of the Mig-27 and Jaguar fleet that has failed miserably while carrying out bombing runs on mountain peaks that were captured by Pakistani troops. A multi-role aircraft like Mirage-2000 came to IAF rescue and was able to perform bombing of the camps and supply lines that contributed to the Pakistan army’s abject surrender that later resulted in the withdrawal of troops from the icy peaks.

The thing that remains common in both MMRCA and MRFA Tender over the last 20 years is that Multi-Role Fighter jet that IAF wants that should operate in such icy heigh and operate in altitudes that are not only hostiles for the men but also to the machines. Recent standoff with the Chinese in the Eastern sector and the Kargil war with Pakistan have only cemented that the new aircraft needs to have capacities to swing-role between air to ground support to air to air support that Rafale perfectly can do and has demonstrated that also doesn’t mean that it can be done by any other aircraft, recently upgraded Mig-29UPG performed better in the Himalayans then even Mirage-2000 after getting modernized for air to ground strike capabilities.

17.5 ton Tejas MkII was supposed to be that Mirage-2000-5 that IAF desperately wanted just after the Kargil war to beef up its Multi-role capabilities and that was what our engineers and scientists are working to develop. No doubt present Rafale fleet of just 36 aircraft will not benefit costs that were involved in the development of India specific enhancements in the jet but going for 90 more Rafale will be a criminal waste of foreign exchange and will involve huge cost that will be required to maintain such a large fleet for next 40-45 years even if brought in batches over next 7-8 years.

Tejas MkII needs to be back borne of IAF that will supplement Rafale fleet along with Sukhoi-30MKI to form the first line of defense in both offensive and defensive capabilities while Tejas Mk1A and Mig-29/Mirage-2000 form the second line of defense by 2035 till the AMCA program takes off and required numbers are inducted to replace Su-30 fleet from 2040 onwards.

Tejas MkII will be the bridge that will create an ecosystem for the development of 5th and even 6th gen technology, buying more Rafale while ignoring the MkII program will not help the Private sector that is keen to build AMCA under Public-Private Partnership rather than doing usual outsourcing work.

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Article by SATYAJEET KUMAR ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or