This is passing strange, but why did the Lockheed Martin chief Marillyn Hewson meet Finance Minister Arun Jaitley July 8 and why did she come away sounding optimistic? Because all important decisions by the BJP govt are taken by Modi personally, Jaitley could have been instructed by the PM to not disappoint Hewson and otherwise string Washington along. Or, a more radical conclusion, Modi lost confidence in his defence minister Manohar Parrikar enough to now designate Jaitley the interface with the US defence industry reps re: the purchase of either of the US combat aircraft, should PMO eventually approve it. So, at a pinch is Jaitley still Modi’s Raksha Mantri of choice?
The intervention by the Americans at this late stage in the MMRCA procurement game with a couple of aircraft that were first to be discarded by the MMRCA acquisition committee, followed by the Russian MiG-35 and Swedish Gripen in that order, leaving the ultimate choice to be made between the EADS Typhoon Eurofighter and the French Rafale, doesn’t make sense for another reason. HAL chairman Suvarna Raju has stated that if the F-16/F-18 buy is to fill the void in 2021 when all the MiG-21s would have been phased out, as Parrikar has declared, then the answer, Raju said, lies in increasing the production capacity of the very fine and indigenous Tejas LCA in his DPSU.
While Raju’s loyalty to the public sector company he runs is laudable, HAL’s work culture is such that even if the jigs and tools are installed, HAL will not be able to produce Tejas in great numbers to meet the timeline. Which is why I have advocated that ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) transfer the complete LCA ‘know why’ info, data and technology to L&T and Tata so a production competition is initiated between them, with HAL left — if it is to be given some work at all for old times’ sake — to potter around and produce 3/4 aircraft a year if that. But given the absence of quality control, it will mean the instant junking of the HAL-manufactured planes. (This is what comes from the govt first appointing a has-been DRDO head, Atre, to recommend ways of firing up Modi’s ‘Make in India’ programme, and then taking his report, which suggests sticking with DPSUs as the the country’s defence industrial cutting edge, and leaving these useless, sarkari-owned outfits to choose their pvt sector partners, seriously. But then Atre methinks knew that his preferences were right up Modi’s street — after all no recent PM has been so enamoured of bureaucrats running govt businesses, usually into the ground. There’s a 65 year track record of this.)
The question is how come the US companies — Lockheed and Boeing are so confident? Because between the US Defence Secretary Ash Carter and “buy American” promoters, especially Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Washington who, it is said, can get an appointment with Modi with just 24 hours notice — no matter how busy Modi is or how full his schedule, the PM is in an influence trap. Carter, of course has the weight of the US govt behind him. But it is Tellis, who has Modi’s ears, and can get the PM to even launch his book in Delhi w/o too much advance notice, who may turn out to be decisive. He is said to have persuaded the PM that by going in for the manufacture in the country of the advanced F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or F-16IN Block 60 version, India will be doing itself a great favour! He reportedly pointed out to Modi that, far from obsolete, a souped up variant of the F-18 that the US Navy has plonked for because it is unhappy with the navalised F-35 Lightning-II, is what will be made available to India. Whoopee!! It is another matter — and this bit neither Carter nor Tellis is likely to have communicated to Modi — that for the US Navy this fallback option is a very short-term bridging solution until the carrier-bound F-35 is cleared for Initial Operational Capability; for the IAF, however, it will be stuck with an already nearly 50-year old aircraft for the next four decades by the end of which it will have an almost 100 year old aircraft in its order of battle! Except, by 2025 no matter how advanced the F-18 platform, it will be a sitting duck for almost any agile fifth generation aircraft and new generation SAMs. If Modi is happy to make anything in India, even a creaky old fighter plane, in support of his policy then one can expect more outmoded technology to find its way to the Indian factory floor, producing stuff you can’t get rid off for love or money. May be IAF chief Raha should be asked how he feels about risking the lives of his pilots in such antique planes in the robotic wars of tomorrow. So the prospects of a US aircraft in IAF livery are, by any correct metric, not bright. Or, at least one hopes that’s the case!!
In all this, Parrikar is left up a creek. He was wisely for the combo of the Su-30MKI and the Tejas as the bulk force, but has had to leave the door ajar for the French item should PMO throw all financial prudence to the winds and insist on having a small complement of the Rafale in IAF to conform to Modi’s thoughtless promise made in Paris in April 2015 to buy 36 of this aircraft off the shelf. In that case, India’s treasury goose is truly cooked. With the Lockheed/Boeing also elbowing in to swill at the Indian trough, the cause of India’s national security seems to be the last thing on the BJP govt’s mind. Then again, who in South and North Blocks thinks about the national interest?
our politician should not commit such a foolish mistake by purchasing F16 or F18. If they really want to buy multirole fighter(if not satisfied with 30 MKI) Typhoon is much better aircraft for multi role(considering they agree to manufacture it in India).Also politician should be aware that proximity with US is good , it may help a country to become economic power(to power itself) but at same time it will never let that country to become military power. japan and south Korea are example of this.
Fine article though describing what seems to be a pathetic state of affairs. The unprecedented access of a member of a US think tank to the so-called “Nationalist” BJP PM on matters of National Security is in itself cause for serious concern. Can anybody imagine leaders like Indira Gandhi, Putin, or Deng, or even Xi debasing their Office and their respective Nation’s in such a manner? Even the Congress led UPA, which most people thought was the “pits”, did not stoop this low. At least they didn’t pretend to be Nationalists, and accepted the fact that they were the stooges of the dynasty. It is sad if Parrikar has been sidelined just when he was talking sense and logic. Apparently as events have shown, these attributes are anathema to Modi. I believe the situation has gone out of control. The problem is there is no Opposition in Parliament, and the BJP party appears to behave like a bunch of cowering sheep.
I believe the UAF accepted the LCA and its variant to follow (the MK-1A) because they knew that HAL cannot deliver. Atre’s suggestions are nonsense, and instead, the GoI would be best advised to heed the suggestions outlined in this article concerning the LCA production. To make up for falling squadron strengths, the IAF needs at the very least 25-30 new a/c per year to be inducted. Ideally it would be 3-4 squadrons including reserves. Not 3-4 a/c per year. This would require around 3 parallel manufacturing lines.
scenario, fewer fighter aircraft are needed to fight tomorrow’s wars. So cries of depleting fighter squadrons are a throwback to a bygone era.
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INDIAN AIR FORCES, SU-30MKI, SU-30, MIG-21, MIG-29, BRAHMOS, SUKHOI, INDIA, PAKISTAN
A contract for the supply to India of additional 42 long-range multirole Su-30MKI fighters to India would be signed in the next few months. Source: AP
How many fighter squadrons does the Indian Air Force need to fight a war, and more importantly, win it? A senior IAF commander says the current fleet strength of 33 squadrons – approximately 600 aircraft – is not enough to fight a two-front war. The “sanctioned strength” is quoted at 42 squadrons and anything below this will impact national security. Where did this number come from?
In the 1950s, the defence brass had recommended 64 fighter squadrons for the IAF. That was revised to 42 in the 1960s. There is nothing magical about this number and only those who fail to recognise that the nature of air combat has changed will cling to it.
Back in the 1960s – when the supersonic era was in its infancy – jet fighters were smaller, accident prone, required longer maintenance hours and had low endurance. For instance, it was said about the MiG-21 that it was in a fuel crisis even as it took off. Because the MiG-21’s endurance was only 30-45 minutes, you needed more of them to ensure some aircraft were always in the air.
Today’s Generation 4 and 4+ aircraft have long legs. The IAF’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI – codenamed Flanker by NATO – has a range of 3000 km on internal fuel, which ensures a 3.75 hour combat mission. India’s Sukhoi pilots are known to have practised 10 hour missions during air combat exercises. With such long legs, the Sukhoi can runs laps around Pakistan’s perimeter.
The Su-30s, MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s are versatile fighters that not only undertake strike and bombing missions, but can also provide combat air patrol (CAP) which creates a safe envelope for other jets to operate freely.
Therefore, compared with previous generation aircraft, today you need fewer Generation 4 warplanes to get the same job done. Better survivability and lower maintenance also contribute to more aircraft being available for missions.
The IAF has adopted the practical remedy of cranking up production of its Su-30MKI warhorse in response to mass retirement of older MiG-21s and MiG-27s. The final tally was initially set at 272 but now it seems the Flanker fleet will cross 300.
With such numbers at its disposal, the IAF is now able to build a network of bases around the country. Earlier, because of the short range of IAF fighter aircraft, most Indian air bases – like Adampur, Pathankot, Jammu, Amritsar and Jodhpur – were close to the Pakistan border. But now Sukhois are also being stationed at places such as Thanjavur in the deep South, Chabua in the northeast, and Pune in western India.
Because of its range and speed – 2120 km/h – the Sukhois can move between the Pakistan and China fronts quickly. Also, in the wars of the 1960s and 1970s, aircraft had to refuel and rearm after each mission. But a Sukhoi pilot can strike targets in Tibet and if he has rockets and bombs left, expend them against the Pakistan Air Force base in Sargodha and, as a bonus, attempt a BrahMos strike against a Pakistan Navy vessel off Karachi. In the next war, the Sukhois will make the Pakistani air defence look like Swiss cheese.
Unless relations with Russia seriously deteriorate by (say) the signing of the foundation agreements, India will certainly get the S-400 and its follow up’s. These alone should be sufficient to severely degrade if not shut down PAF activity in the event of a conflict.
Yes indeed the S400 and the indigenous upgrade of the vintage air defense systems of IAF should be a potent deterrant against any Pakistani misadventure.This could have dual banifts of degrading PAF conventional capabilities and the other of beggaring their already tottering economy as they try to match newer Indian weapon systems.
As an aside, it is thought in some quarters that it is these indigenous upgrades that the French want to stymie. Somehow, one gets the feeling that the French want to use the Rafale deal to push parts if not the whole of some version of the Maitri venture. The talk is that it was hoped by the French that that Modi would sign the Maitri deal during his epic visit to Paris. Instead, he committed for 36 Rafale.
We also have several squadrons of missiles, both for strike and air defence. These replace bomber and fighter squadrons. So the requirement is no longer for 42 squadrons.
If Modi really means business, and since ministries and ministers do not mean anything, he might want to set up a Division or Department of DPSU Divestment within the PMO. The person heading this unit should have a rank equal to that of the NSA, and answerable only to the PM. The task of this unit is to divest DPSU’s to the Indian private sector and/or lease out DPSU assets on a long-term basis to the Indian private sector with a mandate that they maintain, run, produce and design qualitatively competitive armaments required by the Indian armed forces.
To attract genuine interest from the private sector, the L1 criterion needs to be done away with, and stiff penalties for failure to deliver need to be enshrined in the mandate of the unit. A realistic time bound schedule for the divestment for each DPSU, stating with HAL, needs to be drawn up and made public. If necessary, the LCA division of HAL might need to be treated as a separate entity and its divestment attended to on a priority basis. JMT!
Another reason this F16 deal with USA,if fructified, is worrying because it goes against the grain, so to say ,of having offensive weapons in the Indian military sourced only from Russia for so many historical reasons.
The IAF has SU30 mki,MIG 29 upg,MIG 21&27 fighter jets.Indian Navy has INS Vikramaditya,the 10 K class submarines, 1Akula class attack submarine, the missile Frigates etc and the Indian army has T72&T90 tanks,hundreds of BMP mechanised infantry vehicles etc .The sword arm of the Indian military has till date, always been the Russian supplied weapon systems(with a few exceptions like Mirage2000 jets from France)This is not only because of the weapons potency but also due to Moscows willingness to support India even if international opinion is divided.
Even after the so called diversification spree of the military all the systems procured from the USA or Israel have been non offensive in capability eg C130,C17,Poseidon ,MRSAM etc.This is due to deep rooted mistrust of American policies vis a vis Pakistan, Indians just don’t know how US would react if things hot up on the lOC.Also their end user monitoring policy has always been found to be intrusive by Indian military.
This begs the question as to what has so drastically changed for there to be such policy reversal,wherein India now has no qualms in inducting almost obsolete f16 jets into its ORBAT.Maybe Tellis has been whispering in the PMs ears and one has heard him speaking about the fact that the USA would find it very difficult to monitor end user agreements IF AN AMERICAN AIRCRAFT PRODUCTION FACILITY WAS BASED IN INDIA! Makes one pause to think.
@andy: One also needs to factor in the strategic element when considering relations with Russia. BTW, the claim allegedly made “…that the USA would find it very difficult to monitor end user agreements IF AN AMERICAN AIRCRAFT PRODUCTION FACILITY WAS BASED IN INDIA!” is patently untrue.
Yea missed listing out the strategic missiles project,the nuclear submarines as also the Brahmos cruise missile ,all accoplished with Russian help,but except for the Brahmos the Russian help was more covert than overt and India claims indigenous capability.
The statement by Tellis is patently untrue as you and me well know, it’s just another carrot for GOI ,like the French help in kick-starting Kaveri.Both the French and the Americans simply want a slice of the multi billion dollars IAF procurement pie ……But who is the PM listening to Tellis or……..?
India needs to rapidly induct the HAL-developed Tejas light combat jet and step up work on newer versions. At $30-40 million the Tejas offers a tantalising cost-benefit advantage over the Rafale.A twin engined Tejas could be made before attempting the more complex stealth fighter technology in the AMCA.
A few hundred Tejas jets of varying configurations can overwhelm enemy defences. It was a Cold War strategy adopted by Russia during the 1970s when its fighter jets were not as advanced as western aircraft. The Russian logic was that “quantity has a quality all its own”. The belief was that multiple attacks in tandem could pre-empt, unhinge and paralyse the enemy.
India also needs to look beyond HAL in case the Tejas is handled like the Marut jet of the 1960s by HAL. A brand new aircraft company – with foreign and Indian aerospace specialists – whose sole mission is to develop world class warplanes is the need of the hour. India’s aircraft sector can emulate the success of the BrahMos Corporation, which employs Russian engineers and scientists and is run like a private company free of State control.
For a country of India’s economic and geopolitical heft, dependence on foreign military purchases is not just embarrassing but also suicidal.
Your quote “with the Lockheed/ Boeing also elbowing in to swill at the Indian trough” made my day,can’t keep myself from laughing thinking about it.Great work!
Totally stupid assessment of Upgraded F-18 super hornet. It will be very modern in 2025 and later. As missiles develop further agility, the F-18 goes far more superior.
NSG fiasco, America will sell India 1945 era armaments at 2020 prices! We should admire their shrewd business plan. Except perhaps Hollywood, we should shop at Moscow, Tel Aviv and Stockholm.
Why can’t IAF buy almost 3 squadrons of Mirage2000 available with Greece and Qatar? With almost 80%of their life still remaining these jets could be what the doctor ordered for IAF,since Mirage2000 were the jets IAF wanted in the first place.With its pilots and groundstaff conversant with the Mirage 2000 ,besides familiarity with its combat tactics honed over 3 decades of flying this plane there wouldn’t be any need to evolve new tactics or create additional infrastructure as would be the case if F16 is inducted into the IAF.
Both Mirage2000 and F16 have similar capability, in fact India bought the French jet in response to USA supplying Pakistan with 40 F16 jets in the early eighties.
Buying these 3 squadrons would address the bogey of depleting squadron strength raised by IAF from time to time and would also lay this whole MMRCA saga to rest as well as providing some valuable time to get the Tejas production lines humming.Work on newer configurations of Tejas could also proceed apace.
Alternatively since the USA is India’s newest best buddy, we could ask them to provide 100 refurbished A10 warthogs(the legendary flying tanks )for 5 squadrons of dedicated ground attack or close air support fighters.Available at around 15 million dollars apiece these aircraft offer a low cost alternative and could perform the same job done by the MIG 27 jets.
@andy: the issue of the refurbished M2K’s has been discussed threadbare on this forum and elsewhere.
Right but doesn’t make them any less relevant does it?Seems the right thing to do under the circumstances.
You can thank one Francophile former IAF chief and another one known to be involved with arms dealers for letting this option slip away.
No comments whether India should buy F-16s or F-18s.
However, the proposals to transfer the F-16 and F-18 lines to India are attractive for a different reason. There are about 6000 F-16s and F-18s in service. All of them need spares and all of them need overhauls. And that business is more lucrative than manufacture. We should accept the proposals — after due diligence — as export oriented businesses.
Reminds me of the scuttling of Canadian Avro Arrow delta wing fighter engineered by the US
in 1959. The perennial what if question of the also rand. Does India want to breakout with the Tejas and follow on. Or does it want to keep lamenting like the Canadians.
“If the company had been left alone to continue the development process, Canada would have had a man on the moon,” Rob Cohen, CEO of the Canadian Air and Space Museum
Cohen acknowledges that while funding was a problem, the main issue was a change in direction from above.
“Downsview Park has a whole host of new goals, and it’s obvious that the rich aviation history that once existed there is not part of their plans,” Cohen said. “A gun was to our head, and we had to do what we needed to do.”
Yea, the Canadian Arrow — except its killers were the US defence industry and govt. In India, Marut HF-24 was throttled primarily by IAF.
“In India, Marut HF-24 was throttled primarily by IAF.”
Karnad, that is a canard.
IAF bought three squadrons of HF-24 even though its performance was inferior to the Hunter which was already in service. IAF utilised them in the 1971 war. BTW the Marut’s accident rate was on the high side.
Not, if you know exactly how IAF maneuvered to kill the plane. I have Raj Mahindra on record and a whole bunch of old-timer flag rank officers, including AOC-in-Cs, attesting to that fact. Of course, Marut was underpowered which is what the BOR 12 engine was supposed to correct. A more nationalistic IAF brass — and here I am not referring to the flag-saluting type of nationalism but the kind that thinks, acts, and implements self-sufficiency in armaments, could have easily countermanded the Menon decision — and how that got made, is another story, by making the case to Lal Bahadur Shastri and post-1966, Indira Gandhi.
Karnad, glad you have admitted that you are only repeating Raj Mahindra’s opinion. A prudent journalist would have quoted his source right in the beginning.
Raj Mahindra was not even an Indian citizen. He worked in the design department of HAL and, later, on the LCA project. If he contributed anything significant, do let me know about it.
The HF-24 project was almost entirely run by Dr Kurt Tank and his German team. HAL engineers were kept out of it. Dr Tank was a celebrated aircraft designer of the World War II era. Sadly, his expertise was out of date by the time he undertook the HF-24 project.
When the German team left, the drawings were handed over to HAL. Dr Tank had made the structure for two pilots. The space earmarked for the rear pilot was utilised for a fuel tank in the single seat version. Therefore, HAL had minimal work in developing the trainer. HAL also increased the wing area. These have been the only two significant contributions by HAL.
The Hunter entered service in IAF in 1957 while the HF-24 entered service in 1967. The HF-24 was inferior to the Hunter in all respects. It was more expensive. Just the forex cost was more than the total cost of the Hunter. In spite of being twin engined, its safety record was inferior to the Hunter. Finally, HAL learnt very little with this so-called collaboration.
In spite of all this, IAF inducted the HF-24.
Krishna Menon, whatever his faults, did a lot to promote indigenisation. He demitted office well before the Marut entered service in 1967. So how is he involved ?
Lal Bahadur Shastri died in January 1966, well before the HF-24 entered service. So how is he involved ?
The fact that several senior IAF officers have been fans of the HF-24, in spite of its inferior performance, proves that they are pro-indigenisation.
It is clear that you have no first hand knowledge of the HF-24 project.
Finally, none of this is really relevant to the F-16 and F-18 proposals. BTW, I am on record as supporting the proposals, provided they are implemented as export oriented projects.
I rest my case.
For God’s sake, of course, I have no “first hand” knowledge of HF-24 — is that the big revelation?! But you don’t have to, to analyze the trajectory of tech projects, esp Marut. The BOR 12 offer was made by the British Company once it became clear the L 600 engine to be produced by the Messserschmitt engine group based in Egypt — the twin of the airframe group, and both of which groups Tank put together, incidentally, at Nehru’s request, wouldn’t come through. The pity is Nehru’s harebrained scheme of a “nonaligned fighter plane” was at fault and, having decided to farm out the work, the fact that he chose to have the Focke-Wulfe gang at HAL and not the higher-value engine team. Shastri and Indira are mentioned because the Marut was in the final stages in 1965-66 prior to full production, and the power problem known to Tank, could have been corrected even at that late date by reviving the deal with Bristol-Siddeley.
@himlynx: I guess you do not appreciate/comprehend the geopolitical/strategic and technological benefits of having an indigenous aircraft industry. BTW, are you cognizant of the political price India will have to pay in in its strategic program by procuring the F-16/-18’s?
I made it clear that I support the proposals, provided they are export oriented projects. I have not advocated the procurement of F-16s or F-18s. And I don’t favour the procurement of Rafales either.
Let’s be realistic now. Do you think that the US will set up export oriented F-16/-18 facilities in India without significant IAF procurement?
There was an allegation that the “Marut HF-24 was throttled primarily by IAF.” I refuted that and proved that the IAF accepted the Marut even though it was inferior to the Hunter (which was already in service) and even though it was more expensive.
Since you have problems with that, I have no further comments.
Proven brand new legacy aircraft with major modification and improvements is many times better than unproven Rafale. The latter went on bombing mission in Libya only against half trained Libyan defenders.
Re: this gem of an argument – “Just the forex cost was more than the total cost of the Hunter.”
Pls don’t blame me if you fall of your perch laughing.
Bhai ji, where has these years of Life Cycle Costing by IAF brought us to?
Instead of having a real aviation industry we are a bunch of permanent importers.
Ref “Do you think that the US will set up export oriented F-16/-18 facilities in India without significant IAF procurement?”
Yes, I do. The major manufacturers — Northrop, Boeing and Lockheed — are trying to move their existing lines — F-16, F-18 etc — to developing countries and utilise their own capacity for new aircraft such as the F-35. They do not wish to expand their workforce. Why so ? That you have to ask them.
We already have a lot of export oriented industries. FYI, just in Bangalore, the value of aerospace design software exported is probably more than the output of HAL. ( Sorry, figures are not published and so this is just an estimate. )
We have any number of industries which are 100 % export oriented. This is just another one.
BTW the Russians offered us a similar deal for the Mig-21 in 1976 which HAL refused. HAL has reportedly indicated lack of interest in this one also. Maybe one of the private cos will take this up as a joint venture.
Going back even further, during the Korean war, US Air Force/Navy/Army set up considerable repair and overhaul facilities in Japan. That played a major role in Japan’s economic recovery from World War II.
And going back still further, during World War II, US Army Air Force expanded HAL and utilised the facilities for repair and overhaul of aircraft operating in the South East Asia theatre.
So, you think the that US will set up export oriented F-16/-18 facilities in India without significant IAF procurement. You are wrong. BTW, in 1976, the IAF already had a significant number of Mig-21’s in its stables. So, an export oriented line as you claim would not be beyond the realms of reality. F-16/-18’s are a totally different matter.
Bharat Karnad , this discussion is about the F-16 & F-18 offers from Lockheed & Boeing. You brought in a canard, purportedly originated by Raj Mahindra, that the “Marut HF-24 was throttled primarily by IAF.” That is not relevant to the present discussion. It is also contrary to the facts. IAF accepted the aircraft and put it into service. Even today we have a “Marut Fans” Yahoo group, comprising mostly of Marut pilots. You have admitted that many senior IAF officers have been pro-Marut. You have missed the context of your discussions with these officers. They were sorry that the Marut was retired from service. They wanted the Marut to continue for some more years. However, that had nothing to do with the manufacture or induction of Maruts. The canard, purportedly originated by Raj Mahindra, is absurd and despicable. Your mistake is to repeat the canard without checking the facts. Also, when you make an allegation without attribution to the originator, it is presumed that the allegation comes from you.
Some reports emerging that India has asked Russia for 4TU 22m3 strategic bombers( why only 4?) 12 S400 systems and 2 Akula class nuclear submarines apart from a host of conventional weapons,seems India can ask and get anything from Russia,who needs the near obsolete F16?
On a lighter note,in their next summit meeting PM Modi is going to ask President Putin for the keys to the Kremlin!
Compare this with the American offer of manufacturing F16 in India.Incidentally Ashley Tellis in the same program where he said USA would find it difficult to monitor end user agreements if the equipment was made in India also responded to a question regarding US help for India in the nuclear submarines program by saying ‘better the Russians than us’.Its a very telling comment.
What’s happened with this FGFA and PAK-FA stuff? Given the absolute importance of maintaining air superiority over China, we should have bundled the PAK-FA order with other purchases to sweeten the deal and incentivize better developmental progress from the Russian side. Russia’s pain from low oil prices is matched by India’s windfall from the same.
What is the benefit of India manufacturing F16 or F18 when we could have manufactured Mig29 instead?