India’s air force faces a major capability gap opening up with China and Pakistan. This is being qouted in absence of new western jet fighters and due to lacking of local defence contractors who simply cannot produce what the Indian military needs.
A 2012 agreement to purchase 126 Rafale fighters from France’s Dassault Aviation has been stalling for quite some time due to a dispute over the assembly of the aircraft in India.
India’s first home-grown fighter, the Teja (Light Combat Aircraft – LCA), will finally be delivered to the Indian Air Force, 30 years after it was conceived. Senior air force officers do not seem happy with the aircraft and privately said they were unimpressed. One former officer, an ex-fighter pilot, said that the plane was “so late it is obsolete”.
The naval version of the LCA undergoing an accelerated modernisation drive. Many experts said that India was vulnerable in the skies because of its reliance on a disparate fleet of ageing Russian-made MiG and French Mirage fighters, along with more modern Russian Sukhoi Su-30s. Half of India’s fighters are slated to retire from this year til 2024.
“It could lead to humiliation at the hands of our neighbours,” AK Sachdev, a retired air force officer, wrote last year in the Indian Defence Review journal. A coordinated attack by China and arch-rival Pakistan could stretch the Indian military, he added. It’s a scenario defence strategists in New Delhi have been asked to plan for, Indian air force sources say, although experts say such an event is highly unlikely to happen.
India’s ties with China are still hamstrung by a dispute over their Himalayan border that led to war in 1962. New Delhi is also wary of China’s expanding naval presence in the Indian Ocean and its close relations with Pakistan.
The Rafale fighters are expected to replace some of India’s MiGs and Mirage jets, if the deal is materialized. But India is insisting Dassault take full responsibility for production of the aircraft at a state-run facility in Bengaluru, Indian defence ministry officials have said.
France has said it will help Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd stick to delivery schedules, but that it cannot give guarantees for production of the aircraft made at a facility over which it has no administrative or expert control.
However, under the Modi administration’s “Make in India” programme, there is an emphasis on building a domestic defence industrial base to cut dependence on foreign supplies that have made India the world’s biggest arms importer.
The new wave of criticism on defense policies is also considered a propaganda to mold government opinion to French planes again. This could also provide basis for the heavy investment which is required to revamp and re-equip the IAF with the latest off-the-shelf hardware.
Source: Yahoo News