FIGHTER JET STRENGTH OF INDIA
Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.
- Against the sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons, India today has 31 squadrons which won’t go up in the next decade, but on the contrary can go further down by 2029.
- A squadron typically has 18 aircraft.
More phaseouts in the near future
- Three Mig-21 squadrons will be phased by 2025.
- Also, the Jaguars, Mirage-2000s and Mig-29s will begin going out by the end of the decade.
- By early 2040s some of the earlier batch of SU-30s will also start going out.
Deals in pipeline
- The IAF has in total contracted 272 SU-30s.
- A deal to procure 12 additional SU-30MKIs as well 21 additional MIG-29s from Russia has been stuck, though both IAF and Russian officials state that it has only been delayed but is on track.
- India has an ambitious plan lined up for the acquisition of over 500 fighter jets, a bulk of them to be indigenously designed and manufactured, with a majority of them being for the IAF.
- However, these are at various stages of development. Their manufacturing and timely deliveries are critical.
Indigenous fighter ecosystem
- The LCA which is the fulcrum of the indigenous jet development programme, originally intended as a Mig-21 replacement, has seen a series of delays and has now come back on track.
- Two decades since the first flight, in February 2020, the Defence Ministry signed a ₹48,000 crore deal with HAL for 83 LCA-MK1A.
- In addition to the LCA-MK1A, an even more capable and a larger LCA-MK2, which received sanction from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 2022 at a total cost of ₹9000 crore, is expected to be ready for production by 2027.
- Moreover, the fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is awaiting CCS sanction, the development of which would take 10 years after that.
- There is also a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) on the drawing board for the Navy’s aircraft carriers. The TEDBF is expected to take first flight by 2026 and be ready for production by 2031.
- The other critical programme, the MRFA, is a reincarnation of the earlier Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contest for 126 jets.
- The RFI for 114 MRFA was issued in April 2019 to global aircraft manufacturers but there has been no progress and the project is yet to receive the Acceptance of Necessity.
Q) India’s dwindling squadron strength calls for a push to the indigenous defence manufacturing industry. Do you agree? Justify. (150 words)