21 April 2023: India’s fighter jet conundrum

What is the squadron strength of the Indian air force in the present and the future?

  • In contrast to the sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons, the Indian Air Force now possesses 31 squadrons. It won’t increase over the next ten years, but by 2029 it may decrease much more.
  • India could have 29 to 31 squadrons by 2030 if present purchases are fulfilled and the case for 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) has advanced.
  • By 2025, all three Mig-21 squadrons will be disbanded. By the end of the decade, the Jaguar, Mirage-2000, and Mig-29 will also start to be retired.
  • The first MIG-29s will begin leaving in 2027 or 2028. The majority of these kinds will be phased out by the early 2040s, while some of the SU-30s from the first batch will also start to be retired.
  • Depending on the 83 Light Combat Aircraft MK1A, LCA-MK2, and MRFA, the squadron’s future size will change. For this drawdown to be stopped, MRFA must be decided.

What are the plans for future fighter jet purchases?

  • In total, the IAF has purchased 272 SU-30s. A agreement has been reached with Russia to buy 12 more SU-30MKI and 21 more MIG-29 aircraft.
  • Some of the shortfalls in the interim will be made up for by raising the low availability rates of Su-30 and other fighters in service. However, the conflict in Ukraine may have an impact on it.
  • India has a large-scale intention to purchase more than 500 combat jets. The majority of them are produced and created domestically. These, however, are in a variety of developmental stages. Their production and prompt deliveries are essential.
  • The CCS has not yet approved the fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft. After sanction, it would take ten years to develop. The AMCA project is expected to cost roughly Rs. 15,000 crore.
  • The 114 MRFA RFI was sent to international aircraft manufacturers in April 2019. But there hasn’t been any advancement. The acceptance of necessity, which marks the beginning of the procurement procedure, has not yet been given to the project.
  • The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition for 126 jets was replaced by the MRFA.

What are some LCA program facts for India?

  • The LCA was initially designed to replace the Mig-21. It has experienced numerous delays but is now back on track.
  • In December 2013 and February 2019, the LCA received initial operational clearance (IOC) and final operational clearance (FOC), respectively.
  • The Defence Ministry and HAL agreed to a 48,000 crore purchase agreement for 83 LCA-MK1As in February 2020. The first three aircraft will be delivered by HAL in 2024, followed by 16 aircraft annually for the following five years.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Security approved the purchase of a larger, more capable LCA-MK2 in September 2022 for a total of 9000 crore. By 2027, it should be prepared for production.
  • With regard to capabilities, the LCA-MK2 will be comparable to the Mirage-2000. For the Navy’s aircraft carriers, a twin engine deck-based fighter is also in the works. By 2026, the TEDBF is anticipated to fly for the first time, and by 2031, it will be prepared for manufacturing.
  • Long delays have occurred with the LCA project. It has also changed in line with the shifting demands of technology.

What was really designed at that time is considerably different from what the IAF is currently flying. The one we’re using right now is referred to as federated architecture. Any new system or weapon can be integrated considerably more quickly.

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