Are you aware that the C-17 heavy lift, long range, air lifter and the Embraer aircraft are Indian products the country should be proud of and represent great success stories of the govt-sector-dominated Indian aerospace sector? No? Some of you may protest, claim that, actually, Lockheed Martin of the US and the Embraer Corp of Brazil are the progenitors of these transport aircraft. But Air Shows are meant to showcase aviation technologies developed by countries and feature the unveiling of the latest, most advanced, aircraft and aerial platforms and allied technologies to impress the gaggle of potential customers. And, at the Bahrain Air Show slated for later in the month, the Indian Air Force is dispatching a C-17 and an Embraer aircraft as the entries under its name, taking ownership for products they have no relationship with other than as a customer!!! OK, the Embraer platform is being developed by the Centre for Airborne Studies, Bangalore, with a top-mounted SLAR (Side-Looking Airborne Radar) with a good slant range, and this SLAR tech is worth an air show exposure. But C-17? And that too an avionics-wise de-rated transporter — what uniquely Indian technology does it contain, and what is remotely Indian about this aircraft other than the pilots in its cockpit?!!!
This farce will be played out in the context of the genuinely Indian designed and developed 4.5 generation, bulk composite, combat aircraft — the first one created in-country after the cold-blooded killing by the IAF of the Marut Mk-II in the Seventies, entering the lists at the Bahrain Air Show but as DRDO entry, with the IAF treating the LCA as a leper it wants to have nothing to do with! There will be two of the Tejas at Bahrain that will be put through its paces, even as the Embraer will be handled by Suneet Krishna, a former Mirage pilot and the most experienced of the Tejas pilots recently shunted to CABS.
What it says about the IAF is plain enough — that it takes pride in foreign-produced goods while taking every opportunity to denigrate and show down the home-grown LCA. In many ways, the IAF leadership is beyond repair — it has long been the dead weight pulling down the country’s indigenous efforts at arms independence. But what does it really say about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his chosen defmin, Manohar Parrikar, an IIT alumnus no less, that after making a “political decision” to send the Tejas to Bahrain, they lacked
the gumption to tell the IAF brass — the entire caboodle under ACM Arup Raha — to either fall fully behind the Tejas, back it, take ownership of it, and run it in Bahrain and subsequent air shows as IAF’s own, and hereafter take over the aircraft certification process and speed it to early squadron service, or be cashiered.
This is the sort of attitude MOD/GOI needs to adopt towards the military with respect to “Made in India” (as different from “Make in India” — the usual Meccano model of assembly, perfected by HAL and other Defence Public Sector Units). Because on its own, the armed services will not switch to Indian-designed and made weapons systems — as import-fixation now comprises their institutional DNA and that of MOD/GOI — something facilitated by the inducements and goodies foreign vendors routinely offer senior uniformed officers and civilian MOD officials and, not to forget, politicians (mercifully, not in the present BJP govt) in the procurement loop.
The IAF may consider itself as superior to the only competition it thinks it can reasonably handle — the Fizaýa — Pakistan Air Force (because, from its force disposition it apparently thinks the Chinese PLAAF way above its league), but in war it may be in for a surprise. PAF takes pride in the Chinese near-junk MiG-21 derivative, the JF-17 Thunderbird, jointly designed with the Chinese and built at the Kamra air complex, taking it to Western Air Shows (starting with in Paris last year, where it pulled some great maneuvers — watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqJ5satwBYY — with Sqdn Ldr Zeeshan going vertical almost as soon as the wheels leave ground — scintillating stuff, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzvkYsKSEIc ). An air force that takes pride and shows respect for its own country’s aircraft, is a service that, in a fight, will reflect the strength of its conviction and, technologically and by way of self-sufficiency, speed the advancement of the country’s aerospace sector and help it emerge as an air power to reckon with. As for IAF — it showboats on foreign aircraft, knowing fully well that how well it fares in operations is hostage principally to good relations with the supplier country which, incidentally, can turn adverse any time Delhi fails to dance to its tune (whence, spares can be closed off at any time of its choosing).
The trouble is with a succession of Indian PMs showing themselves adept at dancing to the tunes variously of Washington, Moscow, Paris, London (and for no earthly reason one can think of, even Beijing), IAF thinks it will never have any trouble. Think again, Vayu Bhavan, for a change, think; for India’s sake, THINK!