There are curious goings-on in IAF when it comes to its dealing with indigenous and Russian aircraft. Is the Indian Air Force so institutionally set against the Tejas aircraft that it will go to any extent to delay its clearances and thus derail the programme, and to show up Russian aircraft as unworthy of India’s custom? Consider the evidence.
Cobham Aviation Services of UK was contracted to supply the quartz radome for the LCA radar. It is four months overdue, but the penalty clause has not been invoked. Why? Because an authoritative source says, the IAF has let it be informally known to the supplier that it doesn’t want an accelerated progress of the Mk-I lest it be ordered by the Govt to buy larger numbers of this aircraft, and so delays would be countenanced.
Further, considering the IAF’s attitude Cobham has also turned down ADA/DRDO’s request for 3-4 internal fueling probes to enable this aircraft to get an FOC (final operational clearance) for the Mk-I. No probes, delayed FOC.
The IAF is mortally afraid that buying into the Tejas will mean jettisoning the possibility of getting Rafales beyond the 36 mooted by the PM in G2G mode, which the IAF has its heart set on. It doesn’t want anything to come between the service and a big Rafale fleet in its inventory, especially as Vayu Bhavan is not certain that the def minister Parrikar will even realize the 36 aircraft buy from France.
Another piece of evidence: How come the IAF has so much trouble with its MiG-29 fleet (and its Su-30MKI fleet also), when the two squadrons of MiG-29Ks with the Navy have experienced very few problems, considering the maintenance regimes are virtually the same for the IAF’s version and the naval MiG-29K?
So, the niggling question arises: Is the Indian Navy’s air force simply better than the IAF in servicing, upkeeping, and operating advanced combat aircraft, meaning is it just a better operational force? Training regime-wise, the navy relies on the basic Indian-made HPT-32, a basic jet trainer,before the trainee pilots are tasked to conversion units before deploying to operational squadrons. Meanwhile, IAF has besides the Indian-made trainer aircraft, repeatedly shown its disregard and disrespect for the indigenous HPT-40 trainer project on the anvil by buying a series of trainers — the Swiss Pilatus, the British Hawk, and it is said, has even expressed interest in yet another advanced trainer, the American Textron Scorpion (with most such buys justified also in terms of their use in counter-insurgency jobs, which of course, it is never called on to perform)!!! May be the IAF is an air force perpetually stuck in the trainer mode — a tendency visible since the stewardship of the service by ACM (retd) “Charlie”Browne, now enjoying the Norwegian fjords as our ambassador there, rather than being a serious and meaningful air force our adversaries fear. How else to explain the greater proficiency of naval pilots flying and readying to fight over a more difficult medium — the sea, when the trainee pilots are sourced from the same manpower pool? There must be something the Navy is doing right the IAF isn’t.
And, in the light of the Navy’s enthusiastic financial support for the LCA and its taking ownership of developing the naval version of the Tejas, whether it is also not the more nationalistic service, eager to promote indigenous products and defence industry in contrast to the IAF which, when not whining about Indian products and always finding fault with the LCA, does everything possible, in cahoots with vested interests in the Defence Ministry and other parts of the govt, to undermine indigenous efforts?
In the event, perhaps, the Indian Navy’s aviation wing is in line for an expanded mission and role in the extended Indian Ocean region.