NEW DELHI — India's quest to build fighter jets through its "Make in India" domestic industry initiative may not be realistic in the near future due to a financial crunch and the lack of in-house building capability, forcing continued reliance on . and The Indian Air Force (IAF) will continue to rely on imports,  because domestic programs will continue to face delays, said officials and defense analysts.

The government wants to build over 250 fighters in the next 20 years at a cost of more than $200 billion, which will cover life-cycle cost as well, said an source in Indian Defence Ministry source. of Defense (MoD).

India is yet to sign the contract to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft from France. Moreover, the serial production of the home-grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark-1 cannot achieve its operational clearance without foreign support. The co-development and joint production of Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia faces uncertain delays, and there is no clarity on the status of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

The FGFA program may run slow but will not stop. There is still no clarity on future homegrown fighter aircraft like LCA Mark-2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), said a senior Air Force IAF official. The FGFA program may run slow but will not stop, he says.

According to Air Force the current IAF projections, the fighter aircraft strength is down to 25 squadrons as against the required strength of 45 squadrons. In addition, 14 squadrons equipped with Russian-made MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighters will also be phased out by 2024.

"We are not sure if we will only be satisfied with only 36 Rafale fighters and there is also uncertainty when 120 LCA Mark-1 will be inducted," said the Air Force IAF official. , adding, " that We certainly need additional Rafale fighters to boost the fighter strength. With the slow pace of fighter inductions, IAF will need at least two decades to attain its authorized fighter strength of 45 squadrons," he added.

Another Air Force IAF official said It is now for the [Indian] government must to decide if it would opt for more Rafale fighters or jointly produce single-engine 120 LCA Mark-1 aircraft and accelerate the FGFA project with Russia.

The official He (second one) noted that by 2032, the Air Force IAF must have 810 fighters or 45 squadrons. The service IAF eventually will have to also induct a few dozen squadrons of UAVs unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to meet two way threats from both the East and West.

Analysts are unclear too are spectacle how India would will meet such an ambitious target.

The domestic private industry is still not mature enough to produce LCA Mark-1 or LCA Mark-2 aircraft plus the and AMCA because the supply chain is still developing. Funding worries and political disputes could  being rediscovered .If the government funds the private sector under Make in India as per the upcoming defense procurement procedure ( DPP 2016), We still have the risk of the program going through heavy cash crunch and political compulsions will prevent adequate resources from supporting the huge funds for the homegrown AMCA, said Anil Arora, retired Air Force wing commander and member of Defense Consultants Society of India. (DCSI) .

"To reduce this risk, India will mitigate the risk by either giving repeat orders to France for additional Rafale aircraft or reconsider the fresh offer from any country wanting to make fighters in India," Arora said. Both the options for a medium combat aircraft, whether made in India or foreign produced,  "Indian Make in India AMCA " and "Foreign Make in India Medium Fighter" will be kept open, Arora said. The Indian Industry will surely benefit in either case finally chosen , " remarks Arora.

However, retired IAF Air Marshal Subhash Bojwani said, "I think the question assumes that AMCA will be an unqualified success, thus closing the door on medium fighters from overseas vendors. At this stage, even before the blueprints are far from complete and first AMCA metal is yet to be cut, it's totally premature to guess what might happen in this regard."

Arora asked: further says, "Where are the final specs of LCA Mark-2 and what is the weaponization scheme of LCA Mark-2 as compared to LCA Mark-1. How much of LCA Mark-1 is Indian as of today?"

There may be a possibility of LCA Mark-2 may be being allocated to the private sector due to a shortage of funds. Can India depend on state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) for LCA Mark- 2 and wait for another 30 years, asked Arora.

Bhojwani said, further says," I am not a great fan of FGFA and stealth technology in general - not because it is undesirable but because it requires too many compromises in aerodynamic performance - the case of F-117 and F-35 is well known. "My wish list would include a mixture of manned and unmanned combat aircraft with the latter being employed for the more hazardous missions. If AMCA makes the cut I would be happy to have it on my inventory of manned aircraft. "

A senior executive of a private sector defense company, who requested not to be named, said, "If funds are available with the government then LCA Mark-2 will see the light of the day in 20 years. One more option of the public-private-partnership (PPP) model would be a better idea to boost the Indian Industry. The LCA Mark- 2 will be successful if India gets some export orders, in addition to IAF requirements and a new joint venture [with overseas help] will have to be created which gets the strategic partnership (SP) for this project."


To achieve 45 Squadrons for the IAF . all efforts will be to fill the gaps and shortfalls and domestic Industry cannot deliver the gaps right now , he added. Ends.

Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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