India’s Fighter Jet Conundrum

India’s Fighter Jet Conundrum

India’s Fighter Jet Conundrum


  • The IAF currently has 31 fighter squadrons, as opposed to the sanctioned strength of 42. The 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) — MK1A, LCA-MK2, and MRFA — carry the most of the weight in halting the drawdown and ensuring that the number does not fall below 29 squadrons.
  • India has an ambitious plan in the works to acquire over 500 fighter jets, the vast majority of which will be built and constructed in India, with the IAF receiving the lion’s share. These are, however, in varied phases of development and purchase.
  • The LCA, which is at the heart of the indigenous jet development effort and was originally planned as a Mig-21 replacement, has been delayed but is now back on track.

Points to Ponder:

  • India’s fighter jet fleet currently has 31 squadrons, which is less than the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons.
  • The fleet is expected to fall further when existing jets such as the Mig-21, Jaguars, Mirage-2000s, and Mig-29s are phased out.
  • The 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) MK1A, LCA-MK2, and Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) carry the majority of the weight to prevent additional drawdowns.
  • Difficulties in modernising the fleet: Delays in procurement have been a serious obstacle to India’s Air Force’s modernization of its fleet.
  • The MRFA procurement process has been plagued by interminable delays, with Russia delaying orders for 12 extra SU-30MKIs and 21 additional MIG-29s.
  • India has ambitious plans to acquire over 500 fighter jets, most of which would be made in India. However, these are still in the early stages of development, and their prompt delivery is crucial.
  • The ongoing Ukraine crisis has also hindered payments to Russia for ongoing deals and the timely supply of spares for equipment in service, potentially hurting Su-30 and other fighter availability rates.
  • The LCA is at the heart of India’s indigenous jet development programme, with the LCA-MK1A, LCA-MK2, and AMCA being developed to fill fighter jet squadrons’ shortages.
  • Despite delays, the LCA was granted Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) in 2013 and Final Operational Clearance (FOC) in 2019.
  • The Defence Ministry inked a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 83 LCA-MK1As for 48,000 crores, with delivery set to begin in 2024.
  • The LCA-MK2 is scheduled to be ready for production by 2027 and has capabilities similar to the Mirage-2000.
  • The AMCA, a fifth-generation fighter plane, is seeking CCS approval and is expected to cost over 15,000 crores.

LCA Tejas

  • LCA Tejas is a multi-role fighter aircraft of the 4.5 generation. The aircraft is intended to be a multi-role platform capable of performing offensive air support, close combat, and ground attack missions with ease.
  • It is also intended to conduct ground maritime operations. The following aircraft are in production or development: 
  • Single-seater fighter for the Air Force
  • Single-seater fighter for the Navy
  • Twin seater trainer aircraft for the Air Force 
  • Twin seater trainer version for the Navy
  • The LCA Tejas Mk1A is the most advanced version. It has an AESA radar, an EW suite that includes radar warning and self-protection jamming, a Digital Map Generator (DMG), Smart Multi-function Displays (SMFD), a Combined Interrogator and Transponder (CIT), an Advanced Radio Altimeter, and other advanced features.

 characteristics of LCA 

  • The aircraft is the smallest and lightest in its class.  Dimensionally small, with extensive use of composite structure to make the aircraft lighter Excellent record of flight safety A remarkable feat of accident-free flight.
  • Delta Compound Tail-Less Increases the capacity to carry a wider range of weaponry such as bombs and missiles. Flight Refuelling (IFR) Probe Extends the range during the operation. IFR capability has been demonstrated for both day and night operations.
  • Indigenously developed Mission Computer with Open Architecture that delivers interoperability, scalability, and portability
  • Quadruplex-Redundant Fly-By-Wire Fully redundant quadruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system to ease pilot handling. AESA RADAR Electronically Scanned Array RADAR with low interception probability. The LCA-Tejas has 9 hardpoints and can fire a range of armaments such as Long Range BVR & WVR missiles, bombs, and so on with the requisite precision and accuracy.

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