Thanks again, brar_w. I guess my main concern was armour, which I believe makes the A-10 highly survivable. However, as you and negi said, better to have something that can fight its way to the battlefield in the first place. I'd still maybe look at an up-armoured LCA in that case (a la the Mirage 2000 D/N), but it's debatable whether that's of any use when faced with MANPADs etc.
Sorry, this is a long, slightly ranty post. Will get to actual designs next time, but this is an explanation for those.
Going back to the beginning of this thread was extremely instructive. A couple of things stood out:
1) Shiv's plea for a non-sanctionable fighter, borne out with the problems we're facing with Cobham for the LCA
2) Abhik's opinion that our armed forces see themselves as second to none
3) Abhibhushan's need for something simple, based on the Kiran
Given the situation the IAF finds itself in (a serious numbers problem, while STILL insisting on buying the shiniest new stuff at crazy prices), I think what we need is not so much a Design Your Own Fighter thread as a Design Your Own Military-Industrial Complex and Procurement Attitudes thread. Our armed forces are a curious lot: in wartime, they'll fight with sticks and stones if that's all you give them, but in peacetime, they behave like spoilt kids with a taste for good food, only wanting to eat at fancy restaurants instead of eating home food, aided and abetted by successive governments that took the kids to all the restaurants they wanted. Yes, our forces see themselves on par with the best in the world, but what they don't seem to see is that all the forces they compare themselves with have encouraged a local industry and hauled that industry up to the standards they wanted. You can't just say, "the cook at home (or mom!) isn't good, let's go out". If you have gourmet tastes, go look up recipes, and encourage your cook to make them, and be patient while she figures those out. HELP your cook instead of leaving her alone with no guidance while you continue to go eat out. And start with asking for something simple, say a well-made fried chicken, not a champagne risotto.
In a way, I understand the frustration on the part of Abhibhushan or even Prof Das - the LCA is way more than it NEEDED to be. What we NEEDED was a good, workable fighter, a decent fried chicken, but we wanted a champagne risotto, a multi-role, better-than-anything-else fighter that's obviously taken time. HAL/ADA are also culpable here: instead of saying, "Sorry, no can do champagne risotto, but we can definitely do a fried chicken," they said they could do everything, and the armed forces and government happily agreed. What we SHOULD have had is a simple LIGHT fighter to make up the numbers, which would give us breathing room to develop something more advanced. We laugh at the JF-17, but why not? It works. An improved, home-built version of the MiG-21 could've been exactly what we needed.
Instead, we've ended up with the LCA, which is a wonderful aircraft, but one that's stuck in limbo, and will continue to be for some time, while we lose numbers on one hand and argue over the Rafale on the other (and, oh, demand the FGFA years before it's ready). We wanted this poor plane to do EVERYTHING, from developing ground-up our ability to make fighters, to being state-of-the-art to being available cheaply and quickly. Same with the MMRCA deal - I think we've wanted it to do too much.
What is this MMRCA thing anyway? The air forces that use an MMRCA are the ones who ONLY use an MMRCA, not a USAF/RuAF-style hi-lo split. France, Britain, Germany, to some extent the US Navy, smaller air forces that need one plane that does everything and decided on a compromise (the USN is not small but limited by what carriers can handle). Why do we even NEED an MMRCA when simply larger numbers of a light fighter and a heavy fighter can do that job?
Anyway, if we DO need one, then the LCA, once again, is in limbo. If you slice it like this:
Level 1 - cheap, light fighter, short-medium range, mainly A2A with some ground attack capability
Level 2 - MMRCA - bomb truck that does not need escorting
Level 3 - Top-end heavy fighter that can do everything well
then the LCA is about Level 1.5, the Mk II is going to be 1.75. Is that what we need? If so, then forget the MMRCA shenanigans, and treat it as what it is, a home-grown Mirage, roughly equivalent to an F-16 and with no need for a medium brother. The government needs to insist that if the IAF wants the FGFA, it HAS to accept the LCA Mk I and II in large numbers. If you can, simplify the Mk I and don't worry about multi-role capability.
If we decide we need the Lo-Med-Hi split, then forget the LCA as is right now. Harsh but true.
Level 1 - simple, sanction-proof LIGHT fighter/supersonic trainer design, a step up from the BAe Hawk, but not to the level of the LCA. Something like an F-5 Tiger II, powered by two Adours or a single AL-31 (I prefer two engines), whichever small radar we can make at home, even if it isn't multi-mode, EVERYTHING homemade, simple and workable, not dependent on foreign tech. You'd get something equivalent to the JF-17, probably, possibly better. Get it ready within 3-5 years using ONLY existing tech, make tonnes of these.
Level 2 - Scale up from the LCA into a twin-engined MMRCA, with two GE 414 engines. You'd basically get something like a Hornet/smallish Rafale, which can be developed alongside the new AESA radar. The point being, we can WAIT for this. The AMCA is still a long way away - this plane should be easy enough to make with the components we have now, and the main thing is, it's NOT critical - if we can achieve at least minimum numbers from the light fighter and the MKIs, then we have breathing room. It's critical for further developing our tech-industrial base, but not necessarily for
Level 3 - Su-30/FGFA
The point is, the government has to exercise some parental discipline over both the IAF and HAL/ADA and get in fighters that we both need and CAN make.