Flashback.I have somewhere in my boxes of old mags the IT issue in the '80s celebrating the approval by the RG govt. to go ahead with the LCA.Even then it was acknowledged that developing all the high- tech components, etc. would be v.challenging.
The IAF then did their own internal assessment of the programme and gave a thumbs down shocking its own chief.They had done a v.detailed study and timeline of the ADA/ DRDO and come to their conclusions.It was after that review ( posted in BR aeons ago quoting the IAF officer who prepared it), that the IAF wisely decided to upgrade 120+ Bisons in case the LCA failed to meet its service dates.One of the wisest decisions taken.The Bison has proven itself.
When the LCA was in trouble dev-wise, nothing to do with moolah, the need for appointing a Dir.Gen. with " hire and fire" powers to fast- track the prog.was felt essential.The IAF AM, later VCOAS ,first man to fly the MIG-25, was repeatedly chosen by committee after committee to be DG, finally by the PM himself! Babudom of the MOD not wanting to lose control over the project and its funding, kept delaying the appointment.He eventually retd. and not wanting to land up in any controversy never pushed for his appt.It was he who warned APJAK that the GTRE were b'sh*tting about "Kaveri ready in 3 months", etc.APJAK believed them and made some embarrassing statements which 15 years later have never come to fruition (200 LCAs by 2013) !We also had US sanctions after P-2, so one could say that the prog. had its share of bad luck too, perhaps " started at an inauspicious hour".
However, when the IAF's wet dream of dozens of firang fighters arriving through the MMRCA deal evaporated ,it woke up and smelt the coffee served by the GOI! It realised that the LCA had made so much progress , was a desi design easier to support, and costwise was an argument that could not be ignored, that there was no alternative to it as the MIG-21 replacement.The only Q was HAL's rate of prod. which is necessitating another MRCA demand even after the ultra-expensive Rafale was bought in ltd. number.
How this is going to play out is anyone'x guess.Political developments and financial woes will in all probability see this decision taken only after the 2019 elections which may even be held later this year.Until then, the best advice one can give the IAF is to speed up LCA prod., Jaguar upgrades, and MKI/ SS production.A quick settlement of the IAF-HAL dispute over M2K upgrade costs also immediate.This way production of aircraft for the IAF will keep humming along so that numbers and capability are kept happy.More MKIs to SS BMos std. would be even better than any Rafales acquired.