Silly “two-front war” scenario and related IAF’s Rafale push at expense of Su-30

All war planning ought to be on the basis of the worst case. That’s a truism. But the worst imaginable circumstances still have to bear some relation to reality and should be based on reasonable probability calculus. That there is cooperation and collaboration between China and Pakistan in the conventional and nuclear military fields, leading to sharing of intelligence, and transfer of weapons and related technologies is to acknowledge a fact. To conclude from this that China will join with Pakistan in waging general military hostilities against India is, however, to indulge one’s fancies and is belied by history.

Time and again, having initiated conflicts that rapidly turned against it on the ground, Islamabad hoped, and fervently pleaded for, the Chinese militarily to intervene — open a second front, to stave off inevitable defeat. This happened in 1965 when Beijing, trying to please its partner, warned Delhi about some of its livestock on the disputed mountainous border being herded off by Indians which probable cause for war was immediately rendered laughable when, to Beijing’s mortification, Indian opposition leaders, the socialist Madhu Limaye, among them, marched to the Chinese embassy gates in Chanakyapuri offering a gaggle of bleating goats in train as recompense. In 1971, Yahya waited in Islamabad, Niazi in Dhaka, for the “yellow army” to save Pakistan’s goose/goat from being tandoored with the Indian army contingents speedily converging on the Pak forces in soon-to-be Bangladesh, and waited some more before giving up the ghost and abjectly surrendering.

This to say that no country — a calculating and cautious China least of all — will fight on another’s country’s behalf or help out if its means courting danger for itself, let alone save, even an “all weather friend” — Pakistan that has managed once again to muddle into yet another military mess of its own creation. China will do everything short of actually deploying its forces especially now and in the future when it knows that opening a war front in the north and east in concert with Pakistan doing the same in the west, for any reason whatsoever, could likely end — should the situation become dire enough to India to merit it — Agni-5s popping up mushroom clouds over the extended Shanghai region and abruptly ending China’s run as economic power. If the Chinese were not foolish enough to do this in the past when much less was at stake, it is likely they will be even more circumspect now and in the future when, other than concerns of avoiding irreparable damage and destruction to itself, will be preoccupied with displacing the US as the dominant great power rather than stepping into the breach for a whiny but risk-acceptant Pakistan on its flanks. So a two front war featuring China and Pakistan is not only inconceivable but the weakest possible predicate for Indian force planning.

So why is the IAF brass so vociferous in drumming up fear of precisely this contingency? To wit, Vice Chief AM BS Dhanoa in March 2016 who averred:”Our numbers are not adequate to execute an air campaign in a two-front scenario… Probability of a two front scenario is an appreciation which you need to do. But are the numbers adequate? No.” For his part, DCAS Air Marshal R K S Bhadauria revealed IAF’s plan behind such statements, saying a decision to fill the full MMRCA complement will be made after the 36 Rafales are first secured, meaning IAF will thereafter argue that having gone a third in with the Rafale, it makes sense to go full in with this same plane, damn the treasury-bankrupting costs of going in a third and, even more, fully with Rafale. ( Obviously then, the two-front war-talk is not for any grand reasons of geostrategics (assuming Vayu Bhavan has sense enough to read the unfolding geopolitical situation correctly). But because it serves IAF’s parochial purposes well, particularly in propelling its preferred but wasteful and unnecessary procurement of the French Rafale combat aircraft — a decision hanging fire for some years now. Such an improbable war scenario is being summoned up as a last gasp argument to push the Modi government into signing up for this white elephant of a plane. By doing so, Vayu Bhavan is resorting to an old and tested tactic favoured by the military — frighten the generally national security strategy-wise ignorant and illiterate political ruler-generalist bureaucrat (in MOD/Finance) tandem operating in Delhi into anteing up scarce funds for near useless military hardware purchases that invariably leave the country in a bigger financial-cum-national security hole than before.

But Let’s look at some details. Air chief Marshal Arup Raha soon after assuming his post in Sept 2014 himself provided figures for a contract for 126 Rafales — $25 billion (or Rs 1,50,000 crore). Assuming the deal would be signed by end-2014, Raha had also stated that delays couldn’t be brooked because the last of the Rafales will enter service only by 2025 by when, and this he didn’t say, these aircraft would be way on the other side of antique. (

Except two years later and properly worked out, this $25 billion is, actually the projected lifetime cost of just 36 of this aircraft inclusive of the necessary infrastructure, spares, weapons, etc. But two years is a long time and this figure is too big not to balk at. Whence, the Rafale decision, fortunately, is on the verge of becoming a non-starter, notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impetuous and, hence, foolish decision to travel to Paris bearing the gift of a buy of a third of the requirement 126 MMRCAs at, as it turns out, about the same total cost! Quick on the uptake, Modi has perhaps realized the costs of his unmerited intervention and is, therefore, staying his and PMO’s (read NSA Ajit Doval’s) hand in pushing the Rafale regardless. In other words, he is leaving it to the Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who has favoured the more cost-effective Su-30 MKIs, to extricate him and the country from a difficult situation by not peremptorily nullifying the deal as allowing it to wither away, die a slow death, in the Price Negotiation Committee. It saves Modi’s face with President Francoise Hollande to whom he had made the Rafale buy offer, even as Paris does a slow burn.

Seeking to do an end-run around Parrikar’s Su-30 option, Raha on February 18 this year volunteered that the Rafale, which he insists on calling “MMRCA”, and Sukhoi-30 requirements are “slightly different, [each with its] own capabilities.” “They complement each other but do not replace each other”, he intoned. Important to note he didn’t dilate on just what the differences are between the Rafale and Su-30, or how Rafale is indispensable. Su-30 is primarily an air dominance aircraft that can outdo the Rafale in air defence, interdiction/interception, and strike mission-roles as well. This is vouched for by all the reputed international aviation experts, among them Dr. Karlo Copp, the highly regarded Australian fighter aircraft analyst, who considers Su-30, all things considered on a comparative basis, the best combat aircraft flying, period. Indeed, so pronounced is Su-30’s superiority even a yokel would look askance at IAF’s choice of Rafale. More fundamentally, the low, medium, and heavy combat aircraft categories IAF’s force-structuring plans rely on are at best disingenuous, at worst ridiculous. (For analysis in detail about why this is so and for insights into other aspects of the country’s manifold military weaknesses, do read my book — ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’!)

The CAS then drew an over-familiar arrow from the IAF’s quiver, namely, a warning about the supposed drawdown of combat squadrons and to deflect potential criticism about rank bad force planning by the IAF HQrs that obtained this deplorable situation, he maintained that air forces everywhere face the same problems of obsolescence in their respective cycles of operations. “It is not new or specific to Indian Air Force,” he assured journalists at Aero India (with almost all media persons entirely innocent about what operational cycles or anything else remotely technical mean and thus are reduced to being just obedient regurgitators of whatever is proffered by uniformed types). Raha added that if the Rafale agreement were inked that day, the first squadron will be available only in three years and the rest in 5-6 years. ( Raha apparently hoped no would notice the discrepancy in the induction timelines he had glossed over. In 2014, he had claimed the last of the Rafales would enter IAF by 2025. By Feb 2016, apprehensive about the definite obsolescence of the Rafale by the 2nd decade of the 21st century becoming a factor in nixing the deal altogether, he had collapsed that time frame for the public’s and Modi govt’s consumption from 11 years to 9 years. Alas, this is a minor matter and akin, as the phrase goes, to dressing up a pig with lipstick.

In March 2016 VCAS Dhanoa, in a concerted attempt in line with Raha’s pronouncements seeking to derail Parrikar, pitched in with the implied criticism of Su-30 with its serviceability alleged in the 35%-40% range by assuming 90% serviceability of the Rafale saying “If we have 35 squadrons and 90 percent serviceability, it will be as good as having [the authorized strength of] 42 squadrons.” By this reckoning the natural solution for India would be to do what’s being planned for the production of Kamov utility helicopters — Tata will also make all the spares in-country, thereby ensuring high serviceability rates. That this solution has not been implemented for the Su-30MKI only confirms HAL’s and IAF’s duffer-headed policies. DCAS Bhadauria joined the melee by citing the US sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan, asserting this made his life “more difficult”. He now has “to put more hi-tech platform [read Rafale] against it.” “The MMRCA is designed in such a way”, he explained, “that we need to offset this capability. If you demonstrate your deterrence, we should have peace because he will know that he will be hit very badly.” ( This last suggests IAF’s assessment that Rafale can out-match Su-30, really?!! Bhadauria must know something the rest of the aviation world doesn’t.

It is hard to know what to make of the above sort of statements by Messers Raha, Dhanoa & Bhaduaria except to say it smells of quiet desperation to buy French and to persist with the cost-prohibitive import habit IAF (and the armed forces, generally) have cultivated over the years with the connivance of the political and bureaucratic establishment. Such import-tilt is sustained, moreover, by the extraordinarily resilient and entrenched system of payoffs established over the years by the arms vendors and their agents (“commissions” routed to secret offshore accounts, “green card” and equivalent, “scholarships” to prestigious universities and job placements for sons and daughters of secretaries to the central govt — which no one talks about because everybody’s hand, up and down the hierarchy, is in the cookie-jar).

And finally nobody seems to have noticed that the basic problem of combat squadron drawdown is not going to be addressed anytime soon by the Rafale. So, the question arises: Are Raha and his cohort serious about filling the immediate need or not? If they are, and Rafale is manifestly not the answer, why are they equally noisily avoiding indenting for more HAL Nasik-assembled Su-30MKIs, that will be available at a fraction of the cost of Rafale and in vastly big numbers? For everyone’s information, just the up-front $9billion cost of 36 Rafales will fetch India 130 of the fully armed Su-30s, with newly bought units inductable inside of two years. It highlights IAF’s insidious intent to acquire the Rafale at the cost of beggaring the country. This quite curious behaviour by those in high posts in the service is rightly a matter of public concern and may in time to come require investigation as it tilts against the national interest and toward the ultimately unclear and unexplainable weightage the IAF leadership has accorded a particular exorbitantly priced Western combat aircraft.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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61 Responses to Silly “two-front war” scenario and related IAF’s Rafale push at expense of Su-30

  1. Kamov Helicopter are ruining India’s indigenous defence Industry.HAL is developing LUH, which will fly by the end of this year. Now where is BHARAT KARNAD’s self reliance agenda.It was AMERICA which helped India develop Tejas. At that time BHARAT KARNAD was saying India should not develop Tejas at all but leapfrog to UAVs instead. Now BHARAT KARNAD is saying Hooray, Hooray,Tejas.

    • sramjetchohan@ — (1) If you read what I have written, my take on the Kamov was simply about the spares being manufactured in India to service India-made Kamovs — which solution I touted for the Su-30s as well. I did not say that Kamov was the better option as compared to the HAL’s LUH. (2) The Indian LCA followed in the wake of the US’ offer in the late 70s of the F-20 Tigershark — the fighter Northrop-Grumman had developed purely for export, but Tejas has progressed without any help from America whatsoever, except in terms of testing the design in the wind tunnel at the Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, etc. But then, you should also know that all the designs, related software and materials were immediately confiscated when these were being tested as punitive action taken against India for conducting the 1998 N-tests. (3) And yes, I had argued as early as the mid-1980s that given the technology trend, India should leapfrog into the UAV/drone aircraft instead. This displayed, I think, considerable foresight given that UAVs/drones will in fact be air warfare assets of the future. But having said that, my point is the aerospace industry in India has got a start with Tejas and this cannot be permitted to waste away as happened after the deliberate termination in the ’70s by IAF of the Marut HF-24 Mk-II programme — and should be converted speedily into various manned combat aircraft for as long as these are at least marginally relevant. Better Tejas than any imported plane. Taken in totality you’ll see there’s no contradiction or inconsistency in my position.

  2. Alok says:


  3. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    You say PRC wont explicitly attack us given that Agni-5’s could wreck the Shanghai region and with that, PRCs chances of emerging a dominant economic power. However, Agni-5 ‘s are not yet operational. Dose’nt that give PRC a “window of opportunity” to impose a two front conflict ? Also, with Agni-5’s not having a proven thermonuclear warhead, but (presumably) some sort of boosted fission warhead, can they still wreck PRC’s chances of rising a domonant economic power ?

    That said, the way to go would be to push Agni-5 rather than the rafale. Though these are very disparate systems, a good Agni-5 force would indeed remove the possibility of a two front war. Such a force is also likely to cost far less than a rafae force that seeks to cover conventional weakness but will eventually fail to.

    • Missiles ought not be mixed up with combat aircraft. That said, of course, Rafale has no priority vis a vis A-5. Properly spaced targeting-wise, FBF weapons can be as devastating as thermonuclears, tho’ high yield (megaton) fusion weapons have, as I have argued, a more telling deterrence dialectic. As re: China’s “small “window of opportunity”, doubt whether in the present circumstances Beijing will exploit it. If it does, then we are in trouble.

  4. Sriram Datla says:

    Sir everyone is aghast with certain people who are planting stories that only Sukhoi 30 and Tejas missed their targets in the recently concluded exercise. I think they don’t understand how people who know a bit of defence matters want Tejas to be produced in large numbers. Recent media reports suggest that the govt wants to opt for F18 SUPER HORNET which the whole production chain will be brought to India. Do you think it would be good? The whole production change, indigenous stuff and some transfer of technology. Your take on super hornet f 18?

  5. incognito says:

    “For everyone’s information, just the up-front $9billion cost of 36 Rafales will fetch India 130 of the fully armed Su-30s, with newly bought units inductable inside of two years.” How u calculate this number?

    • In the public realm, the all-up unit cost of Rafale is stated as high as $400 million. The median figure used here is of $250 million. The cost of a Su-30 is $70 million roughly (some $45-$50 million for a clean aircraft, i.e., w/o weapons).

      • web123 says:

        Without weapons, training, base, …, the Rafale is around $100 millions. Just check wikipedia, it’s sourced.
        Don’t forget the cost usage of the Su-30 is way bigger than Rafale and the Su-30MKI has a very poor availability. Last figure : 57 %. Rafale is more than 90 %.

      • web123@ — The serviceability/availability aspect of Su-30 is covered — make the spares in India. Most of the maintainability costs for Su-30 are already invested, unlike in the case for the Rafale where all the infrastructure, etc will have to be built up, and weapons will be an enormous outgo on a recurring basis over the 30-year lifetime.

      • Jps says:

        Cost of ac w/o wpns was 450 crores, about two years back. Costs are not static but increased by HAL periodically.

  6. Bharat Sir, What I mean to say is the you are not unleashing a propaganda against India buying Kamov helicopters, the way you are up against Rafale aircraft. Rafale is crappy aircraft,but so is Kamov helicopter.

    India could not have developed Tejas all by itself.American help in developing LCA was crucial(especially Fly by wire system). It was Rajiv Gandhi who went to Washington in 1986 and requested Reagan help in developing LCA. Before going to Washington he went to Moscow to explain to Gorbachev that the reason for India’s improving relations with America is to get American Technology. WHY THE HELL RAJIV GANDHI HAD TO ASK AMERICAN HELP FOR DEVELOPING LCA, WHY NOT ASK RUSSIA ?

    As far as Rafale is concerned I agree with you that India should not buy it.It is too expensive and will become obsolete soon.YOU ARE RIGHT THAT INDIA SHOULD NOT BUY RAFALE.

    • It is possible some basic help was rendered by the US to configure the fly-by-wire system for an unstable aircraft, but the bulk of the work in developing this was Indian through and through. Have met some of the lead designers in B’lore way back in the mid-Eighties and came away very impressed. As to why Rajiv failed to approach the Russians remains a mystery. Then again too much help from Russia would have made the Tejas less indigenous than it has turned out to be.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      You are a little too quick on the trigger. If you have the patience then you can connect the dots for yourself instead of asking questions around.

      If you have kept track of Op. Maitri – Nepal earthquake – you must have realized how important helicopters are. Dhruvs & Mi17s made above 1000 sorties over a month long period with nearly consistent sortie rates. OTOH the C-17s, IL-76s, C-130Js, An-32s made about 100 sorties and half their mission was to extricate. The other half of their mission was heavy lift inwards. This heavy lift into Nepal, was done for approx. 550 tons of relief material and nearly all of it was done in the first 10 days in about 37 sorties. The land based relief amounted to an even bigger 5000 tons in about 650 trucks.

      This should give you a perspective about how operations will have to be managed in the Himalayas. Road infrastructure should take the first priority, especially lateral roads inside the Himalayas. But do remember roads can be damaged easily in these high precision attack days. @BK has advised nuke demolition of himalayan passes. Even the earliest IAF wish list was to be able to cause precision bombing actuated landslides in Himalayas. At that time it was not feasible but putting a mountain road out of action would be easy these days.

      But helos are going to remain unaffected by all these tactics. So you see how important helos are going to be in a fight in the Himalayas. If you are serious about a fight with the Chinese then you don’t need as many of C-17s. But you will need a hell of a lot more of helos and related infrastructure. And helos are going to experience much much more attrition too, compared to these heavy lifters.

      For Helos in Himalayas you will also need (unlike Chinese with much relaxed operating regime) helos capable of extreme performance. And the only way to extract extreme performance is to innovate on engines &/or innovate on rotors.

      Coincidently Russian products like Ka-226 and also the Chinese military source their helo engines from the french. French arguably have the best helo engines. Russians have also extensive experience in innovative contra-rotating rotors which in some cases are claimed to have had 20% increase in performance.

      Kamov helos being brought under Make In India are now a majboori only because our air force decision makers have spent time and money on C-17s instead of the helos. Had they expedited Helos instead, we would have had LUH by now. This intentional blindness over a period of time makes sure that we can never buy the right sort of equipment when it is needed. Which is what both the confiscation of LCA-FBW in US in 1998 as well as the current situation being exposed by @BK now again warn towards.

      There are even more damning issues involved though those may be off topic even more than this.

      The IAF brass has such lop sided priority list that it is impossible to get the right bang for the buck. In fact it seems there is a consistent plan to debilitate Indian capacity probably to make it easier to bring India into the Western sphere of influence.

  7. pegasus191 says:

    I am stupefied that you claim to know much more than the venerated Air Chief and Vice Chief. Either you trash their 35 odd years if experience for your 30 odd years of arm chair generalship…or you are pusillanimous about their knowledge of air war military strategy. You seem to be in awe of an Australian scholar who no doubt is erudite and more humble than you can ever be. Further, you cannot compare chalk and cheese. When you quote $9bn for the Rafale….please educate your readers that this is the lifecycle cost. In other words, over the entire life of the airplanes, it would cost us so. As regards the magnificent Sukhois, has the HAL even set up an overhaul assembly line? Till date, 18 years after they have been inducted, HAL hasn’t been able to construct that and you in ur incomparable wisdom want me the taxpayer to pay more for your fantasies??? Please educate us about the life cycle cost of the Sukhois too. Your insinuations of payoffs are also not proper.

    • The “veneration” of service brass as the fount of all military wisdom is a problem. In more advanced democracies, military/national security strategy and related policies are configured for good reason by civilian experts — not to be mistaken for the generalist bureaucrats routinely gumming up the works. These experts interact officially with the govt on the one hand and with the military on the other at all levels, with the armed services mostly fleshing out the details. There are some frightfully bright strategic brains in the Indian military and I am acquainted with many of them but somehow this is not always reflected at the highest levels of services’ leadership. The reference to Dr. Copp was preemptively to address the question of my expertise (or lack thereof) in judging combat aircraft. Absolutely true that HAL has failed miserably in doing basic things right, such as failing to establish systems for overhaul (you allude to) and for manufacturing spares in-country that I have mentioned. In my my writings, I have excoriated HAL for its many failings, including limiting itself to Meccano-assembly of various aircraft rather than ingesting and innovating technologies. As regards my insinuations — and I have written about this earlier — there is an entrenched scheme of payoffs. A former Home Secretary — one of the most upright in recent times, revealed to me in confidence, that CBI maintains, and periodically updates, a list of secretaries to the govt and top officials in govt agencies (including, I suspect, the military) who so benefit. It is for the govt of the day to use this info to corral the corrupt and the corrupters and to root out corruption if it so wishes. That no govt has taken this step suggests just how deep rooted this malignancy is. And if anyone needs reminding, an IAF chief, ACM SP Tyagi (Retd), has been officially tagged in the Augusta-Westland helicopter deal.

      • jay says:

        ACM Tyagi was exonerated by Italian court. As on date there is no charge sheet against him in any Indian court. Investigation by ED is ongoing for 2 year plus, time enough to find some proof , to produce in court. You good sir, have repeatedly made suggestions of corruptions, sadly without any proof. I have no love lost for the brass but would like to see some irrefutable proof. In the bargain you lower your otherwise splendid credentials as scholar strategist.

      • If the business practices of the corrupt and the corrupters were so transparent there’d be no problems. It isn’t but this system of payoffs works seamlessly in govt’s civilian as well as military quarters. If you are a service veteran you’d know this, if not ask around. Re: Tyagi’s exoneration by an Italian court: it means little. Because doing otherwise would have centrally implicated an Italian Co., Augusta-Westland, and put it in an impossible situation of inevitable blacklisting by Indian MOD and loss of valuable high-value contracts.

    • quickboy says:

      Any one who has anything filled in between the two God-GIven ears knows defence projects especially the aviation projects need money. So the strategy of foreign weapons lobby seems to be to starve the Country of funds insisting on importing the costliest of weapons , Means the Nation will have 10 planes instead of one. It is slowly becoming clear to every Indian that the infatuation of Raffales, especially is nothing more than a ploy to starve the FGFA and AMCA and Especially the ongoing Tejas project which by and large has met everything it was designed for. First the Engine can never generate required thrust. Well if I was in charge I would have imported “Engineers” who could do the job, not the “Engines”. Now as usual and just like HF-24 we have a great plane but had to go shopping for an engine. Well is it not the time to replace the engine development staff?. And bring in people who know or are ready to take some inventive ideas to improve?. I can also read online that India is not interested in co-developing jet engines with Russian companies, well either we want only to go shopping for everything or our people are not good at the job, or our managers does not know to manage the job. Well if Americans, French and Russian engineers can make their engines properly and ours cant, Just get them out and get new knowledgeable people in. That is what needs to be done. And IAF, well ask them to draw the playing field, instead of changing ASR every two years. These people does not even seem to know what they want in next 10 years. There is no way any Nation can make a rocket, jet, tank , radar and a spaceship into a single package.

  8. quickboy says:

    Kamovs are made for particular purposes. I dont see how they will go against development of HAL-LCH, The LCH is a straight away weapon for combat. They are going to see action in real high terrain if and when required. I think this Govt is under pressure from two sides in Raffale deal. First one from the intense desire to be in the U.N killing club called security council, which during known history never did anything for peace, but acted as a tool for legalising the illegal destuction of Nations under some flimsy pretext. Well as for the cattle stealing idea of Chinese, they seem to be reading the Mahabharata more than we do….lol

    Now there is another reason to be concerned about the recent talks of the obsolete F-16 or F-18, The Americans are about to simply junk them, so maybe they want to make India, which at present is a paying customer to have them, in the name of make-in-India. THis offer actually makes them more unreliable in the long run. Just think about the Pakis for a moment , if the whole chain of these things is sold to India, Where will they get parts from?.

    I think there is pressure to issue some weapon making orfer to TATA and Reliance, Reliance seems to have got some submarine contract. So the Govt now is under pressure to give something to TATA, However Mofi can actually solve this problem by asking TATA to get Tech fro HAL and build the Tejas under licence, Of course from HAL. Hal gets per piece licence fee and also can develop a twin engine fighter. Why not?. That can be larger and maybe fix a delta wing and make it look like the Raffale too. That should make everyone happy. Also Bharatji, Is there any news about FGFA?. It is a long time we heard anything about it.

    • Have long argued that production of Tejas and the further tech development and of its other variants should be handed over to a private sector consortium lock, stock, and barrel. Cutting DPSUs out of the chain is the only way to get the country’s aero-space sector flying.

  9. Venkat says:

    we need very heavy artlliery : tube and rockets, if balloon goes up with China.
    We need a lot of helicopters to move troops and material around.
    A hundred Rafales will make lesser difference than buying 400 mountain guns and a few regiments of Pinaka/Brahmos. Sukhois can carry the Brahmos!

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Interesting that you mention Brahmos laden Sukhois in the context of an IAF centered article. @BK has missed that in his article.

      One of the + points for Rafale (also its shadow brother F-35) is the stealth and one of the – points for Su-30MKI is its considerably larger RCS. But it is never mentioned anywhere that a Brahmos equiped Su-30MKI can afford to be non-stealthy while a Rafale/F-35 don’t even have comparable weapons. All the commentary is designed and disseminated with inane and nearly useless ideas like “Rafale has canards protection covers and has lower RCS which is good for deep penetration attacks”. How the hell does it matter if Rafale managed to reduce RCS or if F-35 can come in close to the target because of stealth? Why bother with RCS of aircraft if you can get better results with managing the RCS of the missiles instead.

      A stand off missile gives new meaning to stealth and this is so when Brahmos is currently made of Maraging Steel and still it would be a damned difficult task to track and kill it. Imagine the 5 mach Brahmos-2/Zircon most likely with advanced composites. So at what point does Su-30MKI really falls short during deep penetrations? Imagine what the other 271 Su-30MKIs would briing along once the 272nd Su-30MKI has released its Brahmos.

      Whatever little -ve points remain for Su-30MKIs are there only because a Rafale 2016 vintage or F-35 of 2020 is being compared with Su-30MKI of 2002 vintage. Su-30MKIs have already show in practice how to take down two MMRCAs in one lunch-break. The deep penetration is unquestioned. The BVR looks somewhat challenging only because apples are being compared to oranges. Enhance the Su-30MKI with a Byelka complex and then reset the face-off on papers. Coincidentally the Russians are claiming that Byelka is 99% ready for production. But no sir ji, Byelka will be kept out even though RBE-2AA (only recent) or APG-81 (F-35 not even fully ready yet) will be considered like they are being manufactured like Allu-Gajar.

      • For long talked (in this blog) about Brahmos-equipped Su-30MKIs as an incomparable weapon system.

      • %$#@! says:

        Well said!

      • Venkat says:

        Any war will need to be fought by Indian armed forces. Not indian army, airforce or navy.
        So an article focussing on Air Force will be in complete.

        All our analysis is based on the last war we fought, not weapons appearing today i.e advanced man pads, intelligent ammo with more firepower per kilo, drones, satellites that have images of every inch of our airbases, every one of these airbases will be bombed by missiles within hours of hostility breaking out. Every artlliery unit will be subject counter bombardment directed by appropriate radars.
        we do not have anything remotely close PLA’s artlliery army (2nd ?).

        Look at pathankot, why do we station fighters 30 km from borders ? What happens if china parachutes a few hundred troops over thoise ? These are peacetime bases should treated as such.
        Let us look at these, reduce our fixed cost budgets and re allocate funds.

  10. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Generally speaking Veneration for Rank and File (upto Col. level) makes sense since they are the ones who put their lives on the line. Veneration is also welcome for officer class (Senapatis) who bear loyalty towards professional truthfulness and fairness, even if they fall short of their main duty of acting as a link between the Rank & File and the Politicians in power.

    Merely a Careerist with an ostentatious designation, claiming veneration-worthiness, stretches the bounds of credulity and logic. Moreover, veneration for such careerists, that too in the face of stands/hints being given out by elected leadership is even more difficult to swallow. Rafales and other unjustifiably expensive equipment or equipment that debilitates national projects, sourced from foreign countries, have been put on the slow-track by even the likes of Ex-DM Anthony (and now again by his political opponent like DM Parrikar). At least this should give some ideas to people interested in weaponry.

    • %$#@! says:

      We said again! Veneration is commanded only by those who see (or are most likely to see) action. The careerist brass deserve and command no respect whatsoever. They are almost totally compromised, out of date, and care more for Desk2Desk operations, rather than A2G, A2A, etc types…

  11. andy says:

    The whole Rafale saga is an (to use your own words )’unmitigated disaster’ , sooner it’s brought to an end the better for the IAF.

    The damn thing is so overpriced (which is a perineal problem with French military kit)that any other outstanding performance parameters get nullified. The same glitch occurred when the mirage2000 was procured by the IAF back in 1984.The original mirage contract envisaged an initial order of 40aicraft in flyaway condition & another 110 to be manufactured by HAL in Bangalore with complete transfer of technology but it never materialized because the MIg 29 was available at ₹5 crore to the Mirage2000s ₹ 10 crore apiece.

    Since the IAF brass doesn’t seem to favor procuring more SU30 MKI & would like to buy a’ medium’ fighter jet,they would have to pick one from the other contenders in the MMRCA competition, namely 1)F16 IN 60 2)F.A 18 super hornet 3)Eurofighter typhoon 4) Gripen NG & 5)MIG 35.

    Of these 5 worthies, the F 16 is near obsolete & has reached the peak of its upgrade cycle,the assembly lines would soon be shut for dearth of any orders (only the Pakistan air force seems to covet it)it’s still a potent aircraft,especially with the AESA radar,but seems to have lost its appeal due to its vintage.Plus there are inherent reservations against buying American war planes, which would be the sword arm of the IAF,due to the American end user monitoring & the fear of sanctions, that would hamper the supply of spares & weapons in the event of war with Pakistan ,which is a treaty Ally of the USA.

    The FA 18 super hornet,though a competent aircraft is primarily a carrier based platform, even the USAF doesn’t operate it. There is also a major performance shortfall with the 7.5 g limitation, which reduces its maneuverability.

    The Eurofighter Typhoon was neck & neck with the Rafale in the MMRCA competition on most technical parameters but was beaten in the’ life cycle cost calculations'(LCC)where it was found to be more expensive to operate than the Rafale.The other point is that there are just too many countries in the Eurofighter consortium that India would have to keep happy in order to avoid any disruption in the delivery of spares,weapons etc.What with the Italians blocking India’s entry into the MTCR due to the Marines episode,in expectation of India going easy on the said Marines legal imbroglio. It truly would be a dicey proposition to go for the Typhoon.

    The Gripen NG makes a solid case for itself by virtue of it being so frugal to fly.The Brazilians calculated that it would cost just 4500 dollars for an hour of flying the Gripen as compared to 14000 dollars for the Rafale. In addition to this,the Swedes are promising to make in India by setting up a manufacturing facility in India,the blueprints of the same are also ready. They are assuring massive transfer of technology in the form of flight control laws,source codes,advanced production techniques the whole she bang & to sweeten it further,assuring help with Tejas mark 2 program (which will have the same engine as the Gripen).Performance wise too the Gripen is no slouch.Speed at high altitude is Mach 2 where as at low altitude it’s 1400 kmph.

    Turnaround time is 10 minutes in A to A configuration & 20 minutes in A to G missions.It has a full digital cockpit with 3 multifunction displays(MFD) including 3D screens ,also features hands on throttle & stick(HOTAS) for superior situational awareness.It can carry a host of A to A missiles including Iris-1,meteore,sidewinder,AMRAAM,Derby & Python. A to G munitions include mkb2,mkb3,mkb4 bombs,laser guided bombs like GBU-12,advanced bombs like GBU49 etc.27mm all purpose Mauser 27 Canon provides A to A & A to G attack ability.

    Gripen is fitted with a selex AESA radar system,IRST,passively listening advanced electronic warfare suite,litening3 laser designated pod(LDP),has a forward looking infrared sensor &CCD camera,it’s also fitted with a ground datalink called Rover.It’s engine is the GE F 414G rated at 98 kn,this enables the aircraft to fly at supersonic speed(supercruise)without use of after burners,thus saving fuel & reducing radar signature.

    All in all the Gripen is a very impressive package at the estimated upfront cost of 75 million dollars.

    Last but not the least there’s the MIG35 which is an advanced version of the venerable MIG29.It’s not in production yet but recent reports emerging in the media indicate that some aircraft have been handed over to Russian air force for conducting flight trials.

    MIG35 is a highly manoeuvrable air superiority fighter with multirole abilities. It’s a 4++ generation fighter with some 5th gen technology thrown in for good measure.

    It has improved avionics & weapon systems,notably the new Zhuk AE AESA radar & the uniquely designed Optical locator system(OLS) make it less dependant on ground controlled interception(GCI)systems & enables the fighter to conduct independent multirole missions.The Zhuk radar has 160 km air target detection range & 300 kms for surface ships,it can track 30 targets & engage 6 simultaneously.

    Like a radar the OLS allows MIG35 to detect targets & aim weapon systems ,but unlike a radar the OLS has no emission ,meaning it cannot be detected.It can even detect USAF F-22 Raptor stealth war planes because it includes a complex of powerful optics with infrared vision ,that makes it impossible for any plane to hide from it.

    The twin RD33MK engines produce 7% more power,fuel consumption is reduced by 50% & over haul time is increased by 100% due to better material usage.They provide 9000 kgf thrust ,are smokeless & include systems that reduce infrared & Optical visibility.

    A truly revolutionary system is the all aspect thrust vectoring as opposed to 2 dimensional (horizontal/vertical) thrust vectoring on the SU30MKI.This enables the MIG35 to fly at very low speed without angel of attack limits & ensures that it will also remain controlled at zero speed & negative speed(tail forward) for sustained periods.

    It’s length is 17.02 MTS,wing span -12mts,empty weight 11tons,max take off weight is 29.7 tons,thrust 2 × 88.3kn,ferry range 3100 kms,service cieling 17.5kms,combat radius 500kms,top speed 2.25 Mach.

    Armament-1 GSH 30 Canon,missiles include R71+varients,R73+varients, bombs include KH31A&P,KAB500LL,KAB500T guided bombs, S-8S-13,S24,S250 unguided & laser guided bombs.

    9 external hard points can carry 7tons of payload.It also has a variety of integrated defensive systems to increase survivability, 15 % carbon composite in the air frame reduces its RCS making it a partial stealth plane.

    All this & then some for an upfront cost of approximately $50 million,makes the MIG 35 the most cost effective of the lot,throw in the AESA radar,OLS,all aspect thrust vectoring & partial stealth features & you have an incomparable package, more “bang for the buck”than any other equivalent aircraft can offer.The fact that the IAF has been operating MIG planes for around 50 years makes it all the more appealing.

    For $9 billion the MIG Corp,which doesn’t have very many orders in hand,would probably move lock stock & barrel to India.If the IAF has a problem with the quality of HAL products, then a private entity like TATA,Reliance,L&T etc could be roped in to set up a state of the art facility to preempt any quality issues.

    Don’t know what the IAF brass is trying to do ,chasing after a white elephant that the RAFALE is,when they can have a fearsome killer machine like the MIG35 for a fraction of the cost.

    But then again for ssome,self interest far out weighs national interest.

    • Andy@ — Great job of sketching out alternatives to Rafale. Particularly telling is the cost per hour of operating this aircraft.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      I’d also like to add that the 2-D thrust vectoring on the MiG-35 negates the “slashing attack” tactics that are being developed to tackle the SU-30 in WVR combat which has only a 1-D thrust vectoring capability. IMHO the problem with the Gripen is that it will kill off the Tejas. Sure, the Swedes have made promises etc., but don’t they all…………………? BTW, even till today, the Typhoon lacks an AESA radar with the Captor-E not yet entering a serious flight test stage. So much for the promises that were given during the MMRCA sweepstakes.

  12. Satish says:

    You have given a nice defense of Su-30 over Rafale. I think you know the real reason IAF wants to project unreal 3D war scenario and is pushing Govt to buy it. The reason is this: If IAF buys more Su-30s they get no kickbacks from Russians or HAL. Regarding Rafale, IAF personnel have enjoyed 10 years of French tours and kickbacks, which mean a lot to them. They are also against Tejas again because they will get nothing for inducting it into service — the real reason behind the slow progress of HAL /DRDO/NAL.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      There appear to be some problems in returning the baksheesh that has already been distributed.

    • Jps says:

      What is this crap. Tejas funding is from govt, so where is the issue? The ac are not replacing Tejas, but Tejas has to come.!!! DRDO needs to deliver and not make empty promises. When the Tejas is ready, it will be inducted. So give a kick to DRDO. Why blame IAF, which needs to be combat ready at all times. You are living in your own imagination about kick backs.

  13. Amit Soni says:

    Hi Bharat,

    What is your personal recommendation on what should be done in the Rafale deal? Should we not buy any of them, and if yes, what is your recommended aircraft? More Sukhoi Su-30s or perhaps the Typhoon/F-16/others? My personal sense is that the IAF will buy these 36 jets and then move on to something else It feels like it is now a bit of an ego trip to buy some of these Rafaes

    • Amit@ — Were you to look up the multitude of my articles — most of them in the IAF section of this blog and elsewhere, and my presentations in forums at home and abroad — you’ll discover my opposition to any imported aircraft from the time MMRCA was first mooted to when Rafale was short listed, at which time I proposed the immediate buy of Su-30MKIs. It is true, IAF has engaged its institutional ego to the Rafale going through. But GOI is wrestling with a still larger problem — severe resource crunch. The manufacturing sector is struggling, hence rapid rise in GDP and real (as different from nominal inflation-indexed) increases in defence expenditures, have not materialized.

  14. andy says:

    Thrust vectoring on the SU 30 MKI is 2D & on the MIG 35 is 3D.Google search to confim from numerous articles.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      True! My error. The Klimov engine on the MiG-35 does indeed provide 3 nozzle deflecting hydraulic actuators mounted at 120 degree intervals around the engine nacelle providing for pitch, yaw, and roll vectoring. Thanks for the correction. Given the fact that as per the IAF’s suggestions after the MRCA sweepstakes, the flight hour cost has been reduced by around 2.5 as compared to the MiG-29, and, service life extension to 6,000 hrs., and TBO to around 1000 flying hours, this a/c would be the most appropriate one if the IAF wanted a “medium” fighter.

      • andy says:

        Cheer’s mate,you’re more than welcome!

        A few lines by Rudyard Kipling wouldn’t be out of place here,but hey,even if they are ……….. Who cares?….right Mr.Karnad?

        Oh,East is East ,and West is West,and never the Twain shall meet,
        Till Earth & Sky stand presently at God’s great judgement seat;
        But there is neither East nor West,Border, nor Breed,nor Birth,
        When two strong men stand face to face,tho’ they come from the ends of the Earth!

        Quiet appropriate,Wouldn’t you say?

  15. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Great write up, @andy..

    But Mig-35 will also have to be covered by “Make In India” and having 2 aircrafts from the same Russian stable become difficult to justify esp. if you already are well acquainted with production systems for the bigger more capable platform (Su-30MKI).

    I think MoD should not be afraid to question the very basics of ‘Heavy-Medium-Light Mix’ that IAF brass is so keen on. Kaahe ke waaste bhai!!! What quantum jump in what capability do the MMRCAs bring that the Heavier Sukhois cannot?

    If you look at historical Operating costs reported so far the Su-30MKI costs are near (but definitely lower) to the ones of Mirage 2000. And we know that Mirages were the spoilt child. If you can get the lesser operating costing as a single engined fighter then why in the world would anybody hang onto a Rafale beset with Higher Acquisition Cost, Higher Operating Cost, Higher Crash Rates and nearly nil incremental benefits.

    We have to remember the Brass has acquiesced to keep the Mig-21s that are far more accident prone than let the LCA in. So there is a cultural issue involved here. In such a case it makes sense to question the IAF leadership if they are doing it merely out of inertia.

    Su-30MKI + LCA combination offers pretty comprehensive solutions. The MMRCAs (Mirages, Mig-29s, Jags) that we already have can serve well till the LCA Mk-2 &/or AMCA comes along.

    • andy says:

      Yes.The SU30 MKI + TEJAS,in adequate numbers, offer a comprehensive solution to the fighter shortfall that the IAF faces,because the SU30 is a real mean machine & any technical shortfalls that the Tejas has, can be sorted out by inducting it ASAP ,& then working on the feed back received from the line pilots,which is the way a new plane is made better all over the world.It’s only in India that the IAF is insisting on a complete package right from the word go(maybe in an attempt to make the Tejas languish,just like the Army has done to the very competent Arjun MBT).Also there won’t be any need to set up new production lines & related infrastructure at additional cost ,if the IAF were to order more SU30 MKIs.

      But it is also true, that the IAF covets a medium multirole fighter(although no other air force in the world has such an eclectic mix of heavy,medium & light fighters)the procurement process for which has been an ongoing process over the last decade or so.Now, having finalized the exorbitantly expensive Rafale & on the verge of ordering 36 of the same,it would be prudent to offer the IAF a more cost effective solution, that won’t cost India so much,it is in this context that the MIG35 would be a low cost,with technically unparalleled systems, solution to the IAFs fetish for a medium multirole fighter.

      But you are right ,more SU 30 MKIs + LCA Tejas would do splendidly well for the IAF.

      • Jps says:

        The Mig 35 was fielded in trials and did not perform. The Rafael outperformed every ac. The typhoon was similar. Indian conditions are very demanding. So why argue unnecessarily.

      • Jps says:

        No body is against indigenous production. But in the long wait for one and with all false promises by DRDO, the Sqn strength has gone below critical levels where even the western neighbour is gaining in technological asymmetry!!!! The present MMRCA deal is the much needed lifeline and is not American. Due to all the false promises, the IAF leadership has taken the line that the Tejas would be inducted only when it is combat ready. They have a job to do and with these critical numbers, they cannot become a flying club with more non combat ready ac.The Tejas has to be delivered by DRDO. It is receiving funding, so please be professional and deliver. Where is the accountability of DRDO in all this. You cannot expect IAF to fight with sub standard stuff in the name of indigenisation and patriosm. They have a job to be combat ready at all times. In that context Ashley Telliss article is much more well researched than Bharat Karnad’s article which seems to border on the vulgar.

      • andy says:

        The MIG35 was rejected because there were shortfalls in the ZhukMAE AESA radar & the RD33 MK engines.The engine has been uprated since, also the radar was only a prototype & the short range then ,would be rectified soon was the assurance of MIG Corp,which was not accepted by the IAF.But the same IAF had no qualms in accepting an assurance by Dassault that the Rafale would be delivered with an underdevelopment AESA radar(not even a prototype of the radar was fielded during the MMRCA competition)so if you think that the IAF was totally unbiased,think again.

        It was also later found that the French had omitted around 50 items from the initial price bid,which led to them being declared the winner over the Eurofighter Typhoon in life cycle cost calculations & subsequent astronomical rise in the procurement cost of the Rafale(the same modus operandi was used by the French during the Scorpene submarine tender, which resulted in huge cost & time overrun in that program).Why the Rafale wasn’t shunted out at this stage ,still remains a mystery?

        Basically the IAF had its heart set on a French plane even before the MMRCA competition & they went about getting it with single minded determination, without any thought of consequences, like a spoilt child hankering after a toy,it’s parents can ill afford to buy.

        If there is just some marginal difference in performance (debatable) between the MIG35 & the Rafale,& the cost difference is about 4 times,which is the better aircraft for a country like India, where countless millions still live below the poverty line?

        It’s time the IAF was brought down from its high horse to see some ground realities.

      • andy says:

        “Tejas is a wonderful flying machine, IT DESERVED TO BE IN SQUADRON SERVICE YEARS AGO,remedial action on many of the shortcomings, if implemented even now, will favorably impact timelines for IOC & FOC of Tejas mark 1 aircraft .Favorable impact on Tejas mark2 & other future programs will be enormous.”
        Group CMDE K.A.Muthana,VSM,commissioned in IAF in June 1981.

        Group Captain Sunset Krishna,with more than 5000 hours of flying experience on different aircraft,had this to say to an interviewer;
        To a few questions posed by me ,he said,LCA is comparable to current contemporary aircraft & is an evolving platform,which will meet all future needs of the airforce.He also compared the handling characteristics of LCA Tejas with the Mirage 2000,another single engine,Delta wing aircraft & said,LCA HAD BETTER HANDLING THAN THE MIRAGE 2000.

        The IAF has repeatedly changed the SQR of the LCA, leading to innumerable delays,latest one includes In flight refueling system(IFR).The point is ,just when it looks as if the LCA will be inducted shortly they come up with another demand,leading to delays, cos a new systems design and configuration is a time consuming affair, if these are not attempts to make the LCA program languish,in anticipation of inducting more atrociously expensive foreign aircraft,what are ,is the question?

      • Jps says:

        @Andy. Big world of difference between promises and could be/ should be syndrome. What Russians promise, the capabilities are never what is promised. The world over, their equipment do not perform. Take all the wars and even our procurement of Su. It has been Indian intervention, that has made it as it is. Not the original offering. Else we would have been stuck with a Su27 design and performance which as a combat ac is rudimentary.
        Given DRDO, track record of poor delivery on performance, If IAF continues to insist on combat readiness, then what is the problem. The M 2000 was the most capable ac for a long time. Despite combat ready insistence for Tejas for last five years, have they still delivered?????? And that is for one ac only. Imagine a case of series mod. You would have been dumped with non operational ac. So there is definitely wisdom in understanding the DRDO way of things and in making them deliver instead of false promises. And I am sure this will definitely pay off. Just like Army insistence on Arjun, where DRDO has finally yielded and made the product as per Army operational concerns. There also DRDO made such a hue and cry about Army induction but also delivered. So why make such a hue and cry again. Just get their act together and deliver.
        And the IAF needs to fight. Let DRDO make it combat ready fast. I am sure IAF will have no problem in induction. The order is already given by IAF for a large number of Tejas. and it wants it fast. So there is no merit in fearing that the IAF will not induct Tejas.
        Replacement for MIG 21 is for numbers and not capabilities. Are trying to imply that you want mig 21 capabilities in today’s warfare. And you need to study most features of the Tejas in relation to m 2000 platform. It naturally will be an improvement but based on similar concepts. Which country helps you with design and development of sensitive and niche capabilities like ac development, when the competition is very niche.??? DRDO has definitely not imagined an ac product from thin air.

        Do not get carried away with number logic of substandard versus standard. We already have enough Su for that. It makes more sense in going for FGFA Co production rather than a minor improved Mig 35. All those capabilities that are talked off are already there in Su.
        You need to look closer in the cost factor. The life cycle costs of Mig 35 are not in the ratio that is being referred. One is tending to compare an up front cost and cost of basing and training, Maintenance features inclusive life cycle costs Rafael versus only an up front cost of Mig 35.If Indians have smartened after going through the Su experience, where the recurring costs are very high, then why are we driving them backwards to relearn same lessons.??!

    • Jps says:

      Do not know how a Mig35 is being compared to Rafael which far outperformed it in trials. We already have the Russian experience and promises with the SU30. We have bought as many as were required and need to move on. Further experience would be beneficial only in the co- production form with the FGFA. The MKI capabilities increased only because of Indian tech specifications and follow on improvements. Aviation is an evolving field and the architecture is required to be open ended. So do not see a problem if Tejas was asked to be equipped with in-flight refuelling to remain contemporary. It is in the development phase. Else one would have sought a modification if it was already developed. The LCA was based on intense study of M 2000 platform. So in order to be relevant today, it obviously has to be better. Otherwise what is the point of development. I see some criticism of the mirage platform in this forum. So if was bad then why was the LCA based on that platform??
      Other than that, has anyone thought of the delivery rates of LCA and SU 30.? It is much worse than the Rafael even though it is indigenous production / assembly. So what really is the fuss of production and delivery rates of Rafael ?
      Overall, I think we are moving in the right direction with the Rafael. It will also have good spinoffs for indigenous development like the mirage did, apart from giving a huge capability boost to the IAF. We can take a further call based on operational experience, where we can seek a better development of FGFA or allied Make in India projects. And the price is not the upfront cost but also that of basing facilities, training and offsets. We Indians are good at bargaining. Let the process take effect.

      • andy says:

        As already explained, the MMRCA trials were heavily loaded in favour of the Rafale, anyways the tender for the same has been cancelled,both planes have evolved since then.

        Be that as it may,in my humble opinion 4 MIG35 will provide a better ‘capability boost’ than 1 Rafale or 138 MIG 35 will take out 36 Rafale, anytime, anyplace.With the AESA radar,optical locator system (OLS),15%carbon composite in the airframe (stealth feature) & 3D thrust vectoring the MIG35 today is far more accomplished,than it was as a contender for the MMRCA.Of these four systems only the AESA radar is available on the Rafale.If a trial were to be held today,the results might be completely different.Qualitatively the Rafale might marginally out do the MIG35,but on technical grounds it would be beaten fair & square.Point is ,wether the quality is worth such a hefty premium.

        Spin-off for indigenous development from the MIRAGE 2000 was zero,except for the Delta wing design copied on the LCA Tejas.

        Puzzling to see a recommendation for Rafale to take a ‘further call based on operational experience’ but not recommending the same for the LCA,which the IAF won’t even allow to become operational.When even our Western neighbor (alluded to previously) inducted the JF-17 in 2007,first flight in 2003,in the block 1 configuration, upgraded to block 2 configuration in 2013 with uprated avionics,AIR to AIR Refueling capability,data link,new radar etc.This is how it’s done worldwide, even the Rafale has been upgraded since it’s launch.But the IAF wants everything from the word go,is the PAF more professional?or maybe they have more brains?or do they take more pride in something they have created albeit with Chinese help?whatever maybe the reason, it reflects badly on the IAF.

        The LCA was to be a replacement for the MIG21 fleet ,naturally it had to be better than the MIG21 & not the MIRAGE 2000,funnily enough or should I say tragically enough the IAF is still loathe to induct the LCA Tejas even today ,when it’s a much better platform than the MIRAGE 2000 & has been so for a number of years.

        If the reason for not inducting the LCA is that it won’t be done, till the aircraft is combat ready,then why on earth did the same IAF induct the MIRAGE 2000 in 1984 with only a Canon as it’s armament? & continued to fly it for few years with the same handicap,making it redundant during operation brasstack in 1987.Was the MIRAGE combat ready at that point,if it wasn’t why was it inducted in to service by the IAF?Reeks of double standards,to the detriment of indigenous efforts.

        When one considers all this & reflects on the probable cause of such blatantly cavalier attitude of the IAF, then only the reasons put forward by Mr.Karnad in his article seem justified.

  16. Swamfire says:

    If any way India struck a deal with LM for F16IN/Boeing for Super Hornet then
    1. For cost negotiation it may take 9-12 months.
    2. Land Will be needed and all these will take another 1 year.
    3. Then they will build infrastructure in next 1½-3 year and then will train the labours with required skills for making of components and if possible a supply chain will be made it will take nearly 2021 to fully implement
    4. By 2022-2023 only they will roll out 1st batch of aircraft (if fast tracked then only by 2021 end)

    So why to waste money and then again tagged by title of “Worlds biggest arms importer” rather than IAF, MOD, GOI, DRDO, ADA & HAL should discuss about MK2 variant of Tejas with superior Indigenous quality and make a private supply chain on tier basis and work hard so that by 2022-2023 they would achieve FOC for it and as soon the lines of MK1 variant is finished after delivering all aircraft they should start making MK2 variant (16 annually ) and save Money.
    In this way More jobs will be created, lot of money too will be saved which could be easily wasted in setting up a new line for manufacturing and INDIA will be its own boss, no one to dictate terms.
    At last it will help to flourish our own Aerospace Industry .
    What do you think Mr. Bharat karnad???????

    • swamfire@ — precisely what I have been arguing for years that instead of imported aircraft go with Tejas and its advanced versions eventuating in AMCA for as long as manned aircraft are relevant in aerial warfare. (Look up my pieces in the air force section of this blog.) The US-sourced aircraft or any other piece of hardware injects another complication. It imperils preparedness coz’ spares, servicing, etc can be terminated anytime by retroactive Congressional legislation grounding that entire capability. This has happened in the past (with the navy’s Sea King helo fleet, for example). It is a factor I have tried to raise more awareness about through my writings.

  17. Thomas says:


    I have been reading your posts for quite a while now, and it would be great if you could dismiss the notion of hypocrisy in this statement : “Agni-5s popping up mushroom clouds over the extended Shanghai region” . By stating the consequence for ingress into Indian territory by the PLA is a statutory first strike, you have indirectly reduced India to the level of Pakistan.

    You have always argued that, there should have been punitive airstrikes on terrorist camps following the attacks on the Indian parliament, Mumbai , etc. It is not in my interest to disagree with what you said, however when you were addressing the consequences of nuclear retaliation, you explicitly stated that the reason India can and should go about carrying out surgical strikes is because of the nuclear exchange ratio – i.e for 2 Indian cities, an entire nation.

    If you can use the argument of China’s powerhouse economy to rationalize why Chinese wouldn’t open up a front, why is the Pakistani argument invalid? They too , by your logic, can suggest “India will not cross the border, because the economic consequences are too dire.”


    • Thomas@ — Agni-5s popping was in the context of Pak and China jointly waging actual war and India facing very severe reverses in the north and east — capture of the north bank of the Brahmaputra River, for instance. The difference between the Paki calculations of Indian retaliatory response and and Indian response to extremely serious Chinese provocation is obvious enough. India’s massive retaliation threat is the equivalent of Pakistan’s declaratory position on FU with tacnukes, meaning both are unimplementable. Except, Pakistan also faces an over-adverse exchange ratio that Islamabad cannot correct. Hence, if ER does not deter then the certainty of any Paki-initiated N-hostilities ending on Indian terms certainly will. Look at the Pakistan Army’s record — it is professional force, professional in its assessments. It has time and again got into a military mess with India but also recognized when the game was up and it was time to fold, to wit, conflicts of ’65 & ’71, Kargil.

  18. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Ashley Tellis article is the most mirth inducing article ever :
    Some choicest ideas being peddled by RAND these days, now being expressly put forth for the Aam admi in India:
    (1) “stymied by serious constraints on India’s defense budget”
    (2) “the IAF’s reluctance to proceed fully with the PAK-FA program could undermine its fifth-generation fighter ambitions.”
    (3) “should be cautious about expanding the Tejas acquisition beyond six squadrons and consider enlarging the MMRCA component with the cheapest fourth-generation-plus Western fighter available.”
    (4) “should also reassess the decision to develop the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft indigenously and avoid weakening the collaboration with Russia on the PAK-FA program.”
    (5)”India should expand its investments in advanced munitions, combat support aircraft, electronic warfare, physical infrastructure, and pilot proficiency—all current strengths— while being realistic about its domestic capacity to produce sophisticated combat air craft.”

    One good thing is that Ashley Tellis acknowledges that there are severe budgetary constraints. At least we never heard an IAF honcho mention anything like that.

    And the recommendation is that to expand the budget we should buy the cheapest “Western” fighter (F-18 / F-16) if we cannot afford Rafale. See this is why you really cannot treat France and US as two separate entities. It is ok if France gets the contract, but if it does not, then US should. But in no case should Indian entities be allowed to stand up on their own feet.

    And to make sure we never make anything ever inside India we should also drop the AMCA, even if it benefits the Russians. But in no case should it ever be to the benefit of India – that is the bottomline. A dependent India is like a good drought, everybody loves it.

    And once we save the huge amounts of money being ‘wasted’ in development of LCA 😛 we should buy more SDBs, Paveways (force multipliers and payload centricity, yeh man!). Never mind that only 3 billion USD has been spent on LCA during the time India imported stuff worth probably 500 billion USD (over last 20 year period). Never mind that the only reason IAF pays only lip service to payload centricity is because of the budgetary constraints. Never mind that only LCAs and AMCAs can free up IAF from these budgetary constraints.

    And yet all of these recommendations are packaged with high emotions & concern for IAF, in a manner that you could mistake me for an Illegal Bangladeshi and Tellis for a Deshbhakt Indian.

    Ashley bhai, if you really care for India-US relations and for Indian military capabilities, then just close the goddamned engine deals lying scattered around on your plate and in time things will sort themselves out. Last time you were hawking the 123 Agreement and we have seen how it has ‘benefited’ India. So thank you, but NO.

  19. Bhumish Khudkhudia says:

    Dear Mr. Karnad,

    Ashley Tellis from Carnegie Endowment of International Peace recently released a monograph highlighting IAF’s declining air superiority.

    I would like to know about your views on the report.

    With best regards

    Bhumish Khudkhudia

  20. Raahul says:

    I can’t believe the bad joke of the Rafale purchase is still ongoing. I hope the government bites the bullet sooner rather than later and just cancels it. And a 2 front war doesn’t make any sense as the justification either.

    If a 2 front war might happen, it could happen today, in that case more Tejas/Su 30MKI is the only option at hand. And for deterrence, nothing is more effective than a nuclear test. No amount of aircraft can compare to just 1 megaton bomb test to show seriousness.

    The Kaveri engine, Medium Combat Aircraft, more Tejas and DRDO’s AURA are better investments. It doesn’t make sense to invest money in an expensive 4th gen fighter when drones the wave of the future are already here.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      @Raahul, WRT “[a]nd for deterrence, nothing is more effective than a nuclear test. No amount of aircraft can compare to just 1 megaton bomb test to show seriousness.”, well said! However, this is not likely to happen either during the Mofi regime, or in the reign of its ideological sibling (the UPA). Since India has no other options on the horizon, this is a case of “Paradise Lost”.

      • Raahul says:

        There were at least 2 more scheduled nuclear tests that were called off at the last possible moment before 1998. Buddha will smile again. Regardless of the party in power, nuclear work has continued without stop. The missiles are capable of reaching Mars, and even of being MIRVED with up to 22 warheads. Toss in the 30 cm precision of IRNSS and the need to remedy the weak link the warheads are crying out. Modi is sensitive to the need, and a test is likely within the next 7 years. Every 24 years, there has been a test, 1974, 1998, and 2022 is only 6 years away.

  21. &^%$#@! says:

    I’m surprised that Raha talks of a two front war. When in the history of post-(pseudo) Independent India has the IAF ever been able to adequately, convincingly and credibly tackle a two-front war (assuming of course the supposed protagonists are China and Pakistan)? In such a scenario, it would imply a breakdown of the so-called Indian nuclear deterrence? But then again, I have it from very well informed sources that in his nuclear strategy course(s), Raha wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer!

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