by Anil Sharma

The F-16/21 should not even be considered let alone inducted into the IAF. In fact GOI should scrap the 100+ new jet fighter program altogether, instead they should buy 36 more Rafale off the shelf. This induction should be the last ever of a foreign made jet into the IAF.

Having opposed the Rafale induction because of its exorbitant cost and no transfers of technology, why would we recommend inducting more of these white elephants?

As of now, the Rafale base infrastructure being set up is adequate for 4 squadrons and the India specific enhancements already paid for ,the second lot of Rafale would, by some estimates cost about 40% less than the initial lot. So rather than getting another new platform with its attached nightmare of new basing and maintenance infrastructures, it makes imminent and true sense to opt for the Rafale, if only to reduce the initial cost and maintenance issues. Moreover, the Rafale is a true 4+ generation platform, unlike the souped up F-16,which is of 3rd generation 1970s vintage.

Also the Tejas program is gaining momentum and its upcoming iterations,namely the Tejas mark 1A and the Medium weight Fighter for the IAF and the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF), not to mention the AMCA which are in the pipeline, thus, nullifying the need of another platform, with its attendant headaches.

Of these, the Mark-1A is set for manufacturing by 2023, if the contract, for 83 fighters is signed in early 2020. It would be to India's advantage to pour resources into the various Tejas programs in order to gain self reliance in the jet fighter ecosystem. This would save billions of dollars in the long run.

Its really funny, no tragic, to see Indian agencies baulking at the $1 billion demand by Safran to make the under-powered Kaveri jet engine flight worthy,with about 98KN wet thrust output. The offer should be grabbed because if around 400 Tejas iterations are inducted and each requiring 3.5 engines over its lifetime the production run for Kaveri engine would be 1,200 to 1,500 numbers, there would be significant savings that would make the initial investment pale in comparison. This very same engine could perhaps be tweaked for 110kn wet thrust output which is required for the AMCA,making it even more of a worthy investment.

The only way India can avoid getting entangled in US and Russian demands and also to avoid the scenario of platforms not working synergistically during a crisis because of the paranoia of both countries regarding each other is to have a robust indigenous defence industry. The Tejas is just a small step in the right direction.

Anil Sharma is an enthusiast who tracks military and aerospace issues closely