However, when I was suggesting the possibility of HAL-Saab JV setup, I wasn't hinting to replace Tejas Mk1/Mk1A orders with Gripen orders or to stop learning the know-how of making fighters. IAF wanted 14 MIG squadrons to be replaced yesterday and thankfully HAL (better late than never) has come up with Tejas Mk1 (&Mk1A shortly). Accordingly an order of 7-8 squadrons (40Mk1?+120Mk1A?) has been promised by IAF and a very optimistic view is that these 7-8 squadrons will be delivered by 2026 (16/year for 10 years from 2017 to end 2026). Hence, there is still shortage of 6-7 squadrons for MIG replacements & these replacements are needed now (or in very near future) & am contesting that why we should not aim for replacing these 6-7 squadrons with Gripen. Since Mk-2 was desired by IAF over Mk-1, I assume here that all the ~280-300 MIG replacements cannot be by Mk1A because a more powerful single engine fighter is required. (side note that these wont be replaced by Su30MKI, Mig-29 or old Mirage-2000's available elsewhere possibly)
I am not fully aware of how different or superior the Tejas-Mk2 and latest Gripen (Gripen-E) are in terms of features, but the fact of the matter is that Gripen-NG/E flies today and Tejas-Mk2 doesn't (not even a prototype). I doubt if the final design aspects of the Tejas-Mk2 are frozen. There is no real Mk2 news anymore from HAL/ADA, infact GE-F414-IN is not to be ready to be delivered to India before end of this year. Most of the focus is on Tejas Mk1A. This explains why Raksha Mantri ji Parrikar thinks of a second-production line either to complement 36-Rafales or to complement the shortage of MIG replacements or BOTH.
A short summary (based on a link, which comes in the next post), Gripen has similar thrust (98KN), gets engine from Khan America as Tejas Mk2 is planned; Gripen has similar hard points (or more 10? than 8 of Mk2), AESA radar, similar avionics and flying characteristics. Gripen having IRST, Mk2 is not planned (can be developed in due course though). Brazil finalized 36 Gripen-NG fighters for 4.7 Billion Usd, i.e. 130 MMUsd per fighter - indeed about double expensive than Mk2 might ~ 50-60 MMUsd (Mk1 costs 30 MMUsd?). Saab has promised Brazil to deliver 36 Gripens between 2019-2024.
So, basically, in a HAL-Saab JV-Setup, with indigenous production (MII) in India, somewhat expensive (say, 80 MMUsd), India can very well replace the capacity loss being faced without developing a similar aircraft, Mk2. Contractually, development wise, India is likely to have an upper-hand while having freedom of putting our own AESA radar (Uttam) OR upgrading for MLU's/own weapons. It is likely more possible that by the time 7-8 squadrons of Mk1/Mk1A by 2026 are delivered by HAL (16/year), the HAL-Saab JV setup would have already delivered 6-7 squadrons of Gripen to IAF. This enables, IAF to have the adequate replacements (10 years late already) and a good insurance policy should Mk2 is delayed further. This also helps, HAL-ADA-IAF to simply focus on the AMCA beast, complemented by Saab. Since, India will remain as super force driving AMCA development, Saab will only remain as light partner. (India is to Russia while Saab is to India, PAKFA analogy). (For Navy, something else can be planned).
Reminds me of that mythical story of Vaman, one of Vishnu's avatar ... give them an inch and they will end up taking more than just an inch.
PS - While disagreeing to anti-Gripen, kindly do suggest solutions such as ramping Tejas Mk1A to 32/year & asking IAF to accept rather light single engine fighter such as Mk1A.
Here's your answer:
Local production of US F 16 & F/A 18 not attractive: HAL Chairman Suvarna Raju
Do you think the recent US offer for the production of F 16 and F/A 18 fighters in India are viable?
Neither aircraft could win the (air force's) medium multirole combat aircraft ( MMRCA) competition. So I really don't know. It is not very attractive and I sincerely don't know how serious they are. The F 16 production has stopped and I am sure a parallel line for the F/A 18 won't be worth it. There are reports that the fighters are being considered as we may have a gap of 200 aircraft of the LCA class by 2021. If this is true, the gap can be filled up by increasing production rate of LCA. In the new defence procurement policy, an Indian designed and manufactured system has top priority which the LCA fits into and the others don't.
How involved will the private sector be in the production of the LCA aircraft in India?
The first 20 aircraft will be completed by 2018, by when we have to make a Mk 1A version of the aircraft. We are ramping up production to 16 aircraft a year. We have recently issued request for quotations to the private players to supply modules like fuselage parts and wings. If we can get this from the private sector, we can increase production to 25 aircraft a year. So, we are looking for capacity augmentation with these private players. We are looking at a concept in which HAL is an integrator that has some 20% (of total) work in the hangers. The remaining 80% of work can be off loaded to the industry. If a private company for example is setting up a shop for composites manufacturing, it will be assured for business for many years.