Austin wrote:I dont think IAF will buy more than 40 Mk1 that they have ordered , since they are not happy with 404 performance and would like to move to 414 which is Tejas Mk2 , this is what P Rajkumar has said
That is fine, and we don't need even P Rajkumar to look at it, as the numbers speak for themselves in the discussion. I agree the IAF intends to standardize on the MK2 rather than the MK1, but the discussion was around the combat capability even a LCA MK1 brings to the class & that hopefully, the IAF would add a squadron or two more, based on the capabilities it would offer.
To recap: Based on all the data we have now, what we have here are ASRs which are fairly hard to meet. In a MiG-21 footprint (size wise), we have a radar/sensor footprint required which is in the Mirage 2000/upgraded MiG-29 class (100 Km+ for small targets), a payload (3.5T) which is in the Jaguar/MiG-27 class (medium weight category for IAF) and capabilities which are only being inducted via upgrades in the strike fleet (Litening, PGM, glass cockpit). STR/ITR (per original reports) and aerodynamic performance, were also tabulated based on performance obtained in early generation F-16, Mirage 2000, and MiG-29 fighters, which were amongst the best in terms of having relatively spartan onboard equipment and hence, credible maneuverability/agility.
So the LCA MK1 as it stands, with payload limitations (thanks to weight having overshot by 1T),
has payload/pylon flexibility and hence payload/range profile which currently beats the Bison/Mig-21 class, but is lesser than that of the MiG-27 & Jaguar. However, it brings far more situational awareness and self defence capability than these other 2 aircraft, since it is designed for air to air to begin with, full digital avionics and handling, and not to mention the older upgraded aircraft will get pretty hard to maintain in the coming decade.
Overall, it still provides quite a useful capability relatively cheap to the IAF ($26 Million, per Raman Puri, November 2010) which comes in as a fair deal compared to the heavy costs for upgrading earlier fighters (e.g. Mirage 2000's at $41 M, December 2009, even if half is for the airframe and rest for weapons, the LCA is well placed).
The LCA MK1 cannot act as a deep strike bomb truck, but in everything else, it will still be very useful as we have seen via the numbers. Even with a 2T payload, the LCA can handle a variety of tasks credibly in air to air, and air to ground.
The Chinese have followed the same approach with the J-10 building capabilities up in blocks and ordering tranches of around 100-150 aircraft. In our case, we can think of a LCA MK-1 force of around 100 aircraft. There are also proposals to upgrade the MK1s to better aircraft performance even as the MK2 is being inducted, so even there we can have better performance.