The Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking at the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and the soon-to-be-procured single-engine fighter jet to arrest a dramatic fall in its squadron strength as the deal for 36 Rafale jets lands in the middle of political maelstrom. “The rate of decommissioning is way higher than the planned and even proposed inductions. Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is a good aircraft and 123 LCAs will be inducted in the force as planned. But the numbers are not coming fast enough and the requirement is much beyond that in other categories,” a Defence Ministry source said.
The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons and a projected requirement of 45 to face the anticipated threat of a two-front war. As on date the IAF has 33 squadrons and by the end of next month it will be down to 31 squadrons.
With the planned induction of 36 Rafales between 2019 and 2022, the remaining Sukhoi-30MKIs and some LCAs (Tejas) the strength will hover at 30 till 2027 and in the subsequent five-year term will fall to 27 squadrons. If there are no newer inductions it will slide further to 19 squadrons by 2042.
“IAF is upgrading most of the aircraft in its inventory. But from 2025 onwards most of those aircraft such as the Jaguars and the MiG-29s will start going out,” the source said.
In a month, the IAF is expected to issue the Request for Information (RFI) for over a 100 single-engine fighter aircraft under the Strategic Partnership model. Lockheed F-16 and Saab Gripen are in the race for the order and have already tied up with Tata and Adani, respectively, to build the jets locally with technology transfer.
The IAF has placed orders for 40 jets in two batches of which the first 20 are in the Initial Operational Configuration (IOC) while the remaining 20 are in the Final Operational Configuration (FOC).
‘Sukhoi plant can roll out 5th-gen fighter jet’
The state-of-the-art facility of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, which manufactures Sukhoi fighter jets, can be used to build the fifth-generation fighter aircraft if the government decides to go ahead with the proposed Indo-Russian joint venture, T Suvarna Raju, the chief of the aerospace behemoth, has said.
By: The Hindu
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