Will DRDO and HAL will be able to deliver a 5th generation fighter jet? i.e AMCA on time or our Indian Air Force will be forced to buy a foreign fighter.
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Replied by Naval Jagota

The IAF is down to 30 fighter squadrons, against the assessed requirement of 42 squadrons. Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria’s plan, unveiled in an interaction with the media inOctober 2019, will only raise numbers to 37 squadrons by 2025, before falling again to 33 squadrons by 2032.

The IAF has ordered 40 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mark I aircraft [20 in Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) and 20 in Final Operation Clearance (FOC) version with 16 fighters & 4 trainers in each]. The production of 16 fighters in IOC has been completed in March, 2019 and the production of 16 fighters in FOC and 8 trainers is underway in HAL. The first aircraft in FOC flew on 17 March 2020. Now depending on the final completion of this order, HAL will commence the production of 83 LCA MK 1A aircraft for which the DAC (Defence Acquisition Council) in March 2020 paved the way for HAL by finalising the contractual and other issues. The proposal will now be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval.

The IAF in addition has floated a Request for Information (RFI) for 114 MRFA (Multi Role Fighter Aircraft) some also refer to it as MMRCA 2.0 (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft)to be made in India by a Strategic Partner/ Indian Production Agency (SP/ IPA), for which responses have been received. The next step is obtaining AoN (Acceptance of Necessity) from the ministry of defence.

ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) a society under the DRDO, the agency designing and developing the Tejas MK-II or also referred to as the Medium Weight Fighter (WEF) which is also in contention to be a part of the IAF inventory. The design of this aircraft has still not been frozen.

After this comes the fifth generation AMCA (Advance Medium Combat Aircraft) also being developed by ADA under DRDO, the whole project is already delayed by 8-10 years the first prototype was to have been flow in 2017, it is now optimistically planned for 2025 but most likely by 2027. After the prototype development and testing which may take 5 years the production will be done by HAL. So very optimistically 2033 may be the year of the first produced AMCA, so the IAF would be at 33 Squadrons as per the current CAS’s projections, which is way below the desired level of 42 Squadrons.

Purchasing additional aircraft may become a reality but would depend on factors such as the level of delay in the MMRCA 2.0 and the AMCA programmeas well as the prevailing geo-political situation in the world and in India’s neighborhood at that time. It would also be contingent on the standing of other instruments of national power such as the economy and diplomacy.

Date : 14/04/2020
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