I am not a guru. If you think about it in a non-partisan way, I am stating the most obvious.
What I would do with $ 8B? There are many aspects of the IAF which have been red flagged for decades: infrstructure, radars, refuelers, AWACs. Forget, infrastructural needs and the outdated and often malfunctioning radars of our air defenses, we don't need the fingers of the second hand to count the number of AWACs + refuelers that are available at any time. I would first look into them. But, let's say the govt. is very savvy and is looking into getting funds for each of these neglected articles from somewhere else. Let's say that these $8B have to be for some reason spent on acquiring new new fighter aircraft and aircraft weaponry only, then what are India's options.
IAF has categorically said that it requires the capabilities of a medium weight fighter. I agree. I actually bow to their knowledge. Now what does that mean: a fighter which has approximately 70-80% of the endurance and weapon carrying capability of a heavy fighter. Accordingly, it should cost 70-80% to acquire and maintain. So how do we go about doing this in the current scenario. Let's look at the worst ways first:
1. Chose a medium weight fighter whose acquisition and maintenance cost is higher than that of your heavy weight fighter
2. Chose a new kind so that you have to have to pay extra for the separate infrastructure (when your infrastructure for current types is crumbling), separate training, separate weapons types, i.e. make sure that economies of scale can't kick in.
3. How about make it a little worse: chose 2 new kinds, one that potential kills your indigenous design
Ironically, we are doing all of the above. It is not funny, it is actually sad.
What were possible Plan Bs (if we wanted to have them):
1. "I want my planes, and I want them now": By all Mirage-2000s on offer and upgrade them to one common upgraded standard to bridge you through to the advent of AMCAs. You will have the planes all the planes within 3 years.
2. Get the capabilities using existing fighter types. 36 Su-30s cost 3.6B, 36 LCAs cost about 1.6 B, 36 Mig-35s cost about 2.5B: do the math. There are so many combinations. No new training, no new manufacturing infrastructure, no "ToT", no new weaponry. And you know what's best, in times of war, numbers and availability are strongly correlated. With 8B $s, you could save enough to pour into the acceleration of design of Mk1A, Mk2, and AMCAs and speed-up the generation of build Tier 1/2 private manufactures to manufacture the Mk1A, and use them subsequently for Mk2/AMCA.
3. And if had to get a new kind, GET ONE. 26 makes no sense, and IAF whimpered when Modiji abruptly announced the 36 plane deal. Those whimpers were quickly doused iron handedly and replaced with praise. Nobody with any understanding of aircrafts can justify getting two new kinds of aircrafts while grappling with funds. Personally, I did not want the F-16s or the Gripens in IAF. But if Lockheed is ready to move F-16 production to India at a favourable price, get it. My end goal is to get independent of imports. Bring TASL up as a competitor to HAL in manufacturing technology.
We are looking at paying is 20-30B to acquire 120 odd 4th generation medium fighters in 2016. It's a shame.
You want us to buy the F 16s?The fighter is at its life cycle end.Lets face it,Rafales of the IAF will be the best aircraft in Asia till Cheenis get the J 20 and hopefully by that time we will have the FGFA/PAK FA.
You believe that the F 16 can give us the kind of edge Rafales give us?Will there be any further enhancement in the F 16s?And do we really want a single engine fighter that also Bakis fly?Lets not forget the sanction happy face of unkils.
Rafales are expensive yes but they are the best in their class and every country will fly 4.5 gen aircrafts for atleast another 2 decades.
PS:Did you change my username?Please check the feedback thread.