The whole area of Indian air is guarded by the Indian Air Force which is one of the largest and strongest Air Forces in the world. MiG-21, MiG-27, MiG-29, Jaguar, Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000, LCA(Light Combat Aircraft) make it even stronger and able to face the critical situation created by the threats to the country.
The country is at the vulnerable position as it is seeing the possibility to have battled with two sides of the country. China, from the East and Pakistan, from the West, is eyeing to disrupt the country’s security. To compete and overcome with success, Indian Air Force has the requirement of 44 fighter squadrons. And currently, IAF has only 33 squadrons lower than the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons. As per the report of Parliamentary Standing Committee, the IAF set to phase out 11 squadrons of the aging MiG-21s and MiG-27s.
In the early 1980s, the LCA program was started indigenously to create a single engine light combat aircraft to replace the MiG-21S. But delay in development, together with restrictions, increased time and cost. After the long development cycle, Tejas is now in the process of joining.
Indian Air Force has placed orders for 40 of them in basic infrastructure and formed their first squadron with three planes last year. With specific improvements, the MK-1A configuration is set to order for 83 planes. Therefore, by 2024, this service is expected to have 123 Tejas aircraft, so that six squadrons can be built.
The need to import jets arises after seeing the delay in the development of Tejas and its induction. In 2000, IAF saw the idea of buying new fighters to replace the single-engine MiG-21. After many iterations, the search for single-engine fighter turned into a medium multi-roll Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition, for which the single- and twin-engine aircraft were evaluated.
Back in the year, 2007, the request for proposal for 126 MMRCA (RFP) was made, and after extensive evaluation, Twin Engine Raphael, manufactured by France’s Dassault Aviation, was selected as the lowest bidder in 2012 and contractual talks started between the countries for importing jets. The aircraft was to be made in India under technology transfer, but a gridlock has arrived after several years of talk.
During his visit to Paris back in the year 2015, PM Modi announced a deal to buy 36 Rafael jets under inter-governmental agreement quotes the critical operational necessity. The countries of deal settled on €7. 87 billion for 36 aircrafts, spare, weapons, and five-year maintenance after negotiation in September 2016. After buying Sukhoi, it was the first deal. The deal will be expected to complete somewhere in between 2019 and 2022.
In the next few months, the IAF is set to issue a tender under the Strategic Partnership Model of Defence Purchase Process (DPP) to select a single engine fighter, out of which 100 will be made in India by a private sector player manufacturer.
Apart from the Rafael deal, India and Russia are negotiating over the joint development of the fifth generation fighter aircraft. Given the current trend, the possibility of moving ahead to make the IAF’s combat force continue.