'Combat aircraft contest not over'
Ajai Shukla / Linkoping/ Sweden December 5, 2011
There are celebrations at Linkoping, the home of the Gripen NG fighter, which is barely two hours from Stockholm in one of Sweden’s ultra-friendly inter-city trains. On Tuesday, the Swiss government announced its selection of the Gripen fighter for the Swiss Air Force, turning away the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale.
Col. Ajay Shukla is either a fool or he is doing a lifafa job again.
The Gripen is out of the game for two reasons:
A. It hasn't got the power (single engine), range and payload the Typhoon or Rafale have.
B. Our own Tejas will take care of the role the Gripen would have in the IAF inventory.
One could add that Sweden can't offer the same partnership the EF consortium or France can (technology wise and as industrial partner in defence).
India will not bankrupt itself if it purchases the 200 Rafale's or Typhoons for USD 20 bn, this is a rather insignificant amount over a period of, let's say, 10 years, particularly if India' GDP keeps growing with 7% a year.
The IAF needs 40% of it's fighter fleet to be in the modern medium multi-role category. Medium means power (twin engines), range and payload superior to light aircraft like Tejas and Gripen, but less then the heavyweight Su-30 MKI. Multi-role means that it should be able to trash the Packee F-16, "Chinese" J-10, J-11 and J-20 in air combat as well as go deep inside enemy airspace to deliver a decent amount of ammo and fight it's way back home.
What are the "medium" fighters presently in the IAF inventory, what are their capabilities,how up-to-date are they and what is the life still left in them?
MiG-27: Ground attack only, obselete and not much life left in them. Have to retire them in next 5 years or so.
MiG-29: Air-to-air capablity only, can hold their own against F-16/J-10 in combat, not sure about the J-11 (guru's enlighten us), with the planned upgrade the IAF MiG-29 fleet will remain a capable force for another 15 years.
Mirage 2000H: Good in air combat and ground attack, the proposed upgrade will keep them up-to-date and in service for another 15+ years.
They are multi-role but only 50 left and don't have range.
IAF Jaguar: A bomb truck, underpowered/overweight, needs escort if they venture into Packee airspace.
The Tejas takes care of IAF's requirement for a light multi-role fighter and the Su-30MKI does the same for the heavy multi-role fighter.
The Tejas Mk 2 will be state of the art when it enters service and the planned upgrade for the Su-30MKI's will infuse the latest tech in the Su-30MKI's.
However there is a serious problem with the medium multi-role aircrafts in IAF's inventory. Only the Mirage 2000H is truly multi-role, but they are old, don't have the range to strikes in Chinese occupied Tibet and we don't have them in sufficient numbers.
We do have the Jaguars in somewhat sufficient numbers but they are old tech and pure bomb trucks.
The planned upgrade for the MiG-29 will add some ground attack capability to the MiG-29, still, it will essentially remain an air superiority fighter.
As for the MiG-27: the sooner it's retired the better.
India can't design and develop a medium multi-role aircraft within the next 10 years, we don't have the number of scientists and engineers yet, nor do we have the industrial base. It will take longer then 10 years for India to come up with an advanced medium multi-role aircraft, possibly 20 years or so. In the meantime most of the current fleet of "medium" aircraft in IAF's inventory will have to be retired. (Except maybe for the Mirage 2000's, because their upgrade itself is supposed to take 10 years or longer, the decision to go for an upgrade was in my opinion a wrong one, however the IAF was forced to make this decision because the low life politicians could not decide on the successor/replacement for the Mirage 2000/MiG-27/the older Jaguars in time.)
So unless we order a large number (at least 200) of high end, medium multi-role aircraft (either the Typhoon or the Rafale) now, the IAF will be left with a gaping hole in possibly the most important category of aircraft in it's fleet.
Also, there is this misconception that the PAK-FA will make the MMRCA redundant and obsolete: no it won't. The PAK-FA is a stealth fighter with internal bays for missiles and bombs, this necessarily means that it won't be able to cary a lot of missiles or bombs. Ofcourse we could use external hardpoints to carry more bombs, etc., but that would negate it's stealth advantage.
Furthermore, more Su-30MKI's are not a good alternative to the MMRCA: the Su-30MKI is more costly to operate then a lighter aircraft such as the MMRCA and because of it's size it's easier to detect then a Typhoon or Rafale. And more Su-30MKI's won't bring in the latest western technology.
We need heavies and middleweights to pound Chinese bases in Chinese occupied Tibet. They only have the range and power to deliver useful payloads, the manoeuvrabilty/agility to put up a fight when necessary and the tech to jam enemy radars/missiles.
We need advanced middleweights and lightweights to strike the Packees, this will also free up the Jaguars for tactical air strikes.
Tejas, MiG-29's, some of the MMRCA and Su-30MKI's will take care of air defense.
All the above is pretty obvious (and pedestrian, but hey, I am not Karan M. or Kartik, so leave me alone).