Vivek K wrote:People take this attitude of - buy 2 more squadrons and be done with it. What is the rationale behind 2 additional squadrons? Is that a comfort number? Or is IAF short of 2 squadrons of this particular type? Or it is the number needed to counter a specific number of enemy squadrons arrayed against us?
You answered your own question - on the validity of two additional Rafale squadrons. This is your own post (which is the third one from top, in this very page of this thread) which I am reproducing here...
Vivek K wrote:I50 Mirages would have kept Rafales out. The Rafale fleet therefore plus the M2K fleet size should be that much to counter two hostile neighbors. So another 36 Rafales should be purchased ASAP and delivered quickly. This would allow time for the Mk2 and AMCA to develop and mature without loss of capability. LCA Mk2 can definitely replace the Jag + Mig -27 fleets. IAF should be looking to grow to 45 squadrons. LCA can help with that enhancement.
Another two squadrons is not a comfort number, but rather to capitalize on the investment made on the first 36. That investment is primarily in the infrastructure that is set up at Ambala and Hasimara that can house two squadrons each of the Rafale. Then there is the investment made in the simulators, tools, etc. As per the IAF, they are short of 6 - 7 squadrons of MRFA/MMRCA, but an additional two - at this stage - will help. But you put it best - time for the Mk2 and AMCA to develop and mature without loss of capability.
Vivek K wrote:Realize this, a new order will mean first deliveries at least 3 years from the contract signing and perhaps total deliveries in 3 years from that date. Is that schedule optimal for national security? Can alternatives be available earlier?
Increased deliveries can come, but the Govt will have to pay for the increased delivery schedule.
There is no point in yet another "phoren" 4th generation fighter with the purchase of Rafale. So anything with a new OEM will take longer than three years. This is our MoD after all. Buying additional Rafales will take three years at minimum, because the infrastructure is already set up. So nothing to re-invent. Thus any phoren fighter will take a minimum of three years.
The only other alternative will be a local fighter i.e. Tejas. But the same scenario exists here as well, as with the recent order of 83 Tejas Mk1As. The first batch of fighters will arrive only by early 2024, as the deal was signed on 03 Feb 2021. Again, the three year timeframe stands. That is largely an industry standard. That timeframe can be reduced, but not at this stage. All the Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers have to start their manufacturing processes for the Tier 1 integrator to do its job.
The 21 MiG-29s on offer will also take three years for delivery. The 12 Su-30MKIs - also in negotiation - are attrition replacements, but I am unsure how long that will take to arrive. The GOI does not have the money or the political will to purchase 114 phoren fighters. At this stage, another two squadrons of Rafale + 83 Tejas Mk1A + 21 MiG-29s is best and should give the IAF *some* breathing room to reassess the falling squadron strength. Improved serviceability of the present combat fleet is also vital in keeping the numbers up.
This also gives room for the upcoming Tejas Mk2, which is expected to arrive towards the end of this decade. No new fighter - local or phoren - will come earlier anyway. The 21 MiG-29s will arrive only by the middle of this decade, assuming a deal is signed this year. Same with the 83 Tejas Mk1As. Same with another 36 Rafales. And even longer for another 4th generation fighter. So none of these schedules are optimal for national security. And no alternatives can be made available earlier. This is the reality.
In the midst of all this talk of production and delivery schedule, please do not forget a key component - pilot training. A point that is consistently overlooked - not by you - by many on BRF. So even if all the stars align for India and by some divine miracle, 100+ fighters (local or phoren) arrive in a year or two...it will be pointless if there are no qualified pilots to fly them.
Modern combat aircraft require less focus on the flying component and more on the mastery of the avionics and sensors. Just because pilots are available and can understand the basic laws of flight, that does not mean they can exploit the strength of the platform. One cannot expect Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to fly a Rafale F3R into combat, just because he is qualified to fly a MiG-21 Bison or a Su-30MKI. It does not work that way at all and the IAF is a stickler for rules and safety, as it should be.
There are set syllabus that every pilot, on any platform in service with the IAF, must complete to be fully qualified. And depending on where the pilot is in the training syllabus, he/she can also be deputed to train the new rookies that join the squadron. But training takes time and training a roster of pilots in a squadron takes even longer. There is no magic wand for this. Therefore just adding planes is pointless. Not to mention the CDS is against the idea of doing large purchases, as he recently commented on the MRFA deal and stated staggered purchases are better.