A well informed correspondent pulled me up for not pointing out in my counter-response that AVM (Retd) Manmohan Bahadur (“MMRCA misgivings unfounded”) rather cavalierly dismissed Tejas. Bahadur declares that Tejas Mk-1 does not meet IAF’s needs. Strange, considering the Mk-1 is supposed to be the replacement aircraft for the large number of MiG-21s in the IAF fleet, which aircraft has been given an extended stay in the fleet into the 2020s with the Bison variant! And, in what way does the Mk-1 lag? Not in terms of weapons load capacity or even range, surely? And, certainly not in terms of its 4.5 generation avionics that’s a match for anything the Rafale features (except, perhaps, in data fusion (what to talk of MiG-21)! And, how then does he explain the Swedish Gripen NG, with almost exactly the same performance characteristics, being shortlisted by IAF in the MMRCA sweepstakes?
As a fighter pilot, Bahadur, in line with the IAF’s view, instead of hurrahing every imported or importable aircraft, may care to look inwards a bit and see how different the scene might have been had the IAF, especially in view of its, what many would call an “änti-nationalist”, terminator role in the HF-24 Marut Mk-II project — made amends and taken charge and responsibility for the Tejas programme, rather than attacking it from the sidelines, bemoaning weaknesses in the Tejas R&D and production schemes, and habitually pitching for cost-prohibitive Western aircraft. And whether or not the $30 billion plus — that India simply cannot afford — to be expended on the Rafale, will not be better spent at home beefing up the Tejas programme and fast-tracking the Mk-1s and Mk-2s into operational service. Perhaps, this is too much to expect of the IAF and veterans from the Service.