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Air Force Brat

Brigadier
Super Moderator
So, you had said that you disagree India should rely on indigenous production for their main line defense aircraft, and I asked for what reasons do you think so, giving a few of my own on why they should (including the original purpose of the LCA program and where current IAF Squadron Strength is vs Sanctioned)...

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I read two trains of thought from you to answer why India should not have its own indigenous aircraft fighter program:

1)They need Capacity and Capability NOW!

This stuck out to me because you said it four times in one form or another. But on its own I don't think it is a very solid answer to my question, in context of some of the information I provided re challenges facing the IAF. It sounds urgent but bombastic. Here's why I say so:

What qualifies as NOW? What is it they need NOW? What can they afford? And is it a viable path to maintaining (or getting back to) the force structure that the IAF says they need to defend India? Sustainable over the long term or in the face of conflict attrition?

If you mean India needs these fighters (Rafale? More Su-30MKIs? F-35?) NOW as in this year, well they are only slated to begin first delivery in September. It will take two years for all 36 aircraft to be delivered. 2021. For 36 Rafale. That is two squadrons. It will likely just cover the retirement (and other losses) of aircraft from the period 2019-2021.

The MMRCA (1.0 anyway) began in the early 2000s with RFP issued in 2007. Over 12 years ago this process began. The IAF began the process already under strength at around 39 Squadrons if I remember correctly. The urgent requirement has always been there, and likely always will to some degree. India needs a 5th Gen counter to the J-20 NOW etc.

There is a MMRCA 2.0 under review currently, and if it were to actually go somewhere, India would not see aircraft delivery begin until 2024 at the very earliest. But they need planes now...

My point is, this is nation defense planning, NOW is a relatively useless term. India needs to structurally put in place a defense ecosystem that they can indigenously sustain and build on for self sufficiency. It requires long term implementation and not short term splurge. Which to be fair, they did attempt with the beginnings of Tejas and MMRCA. But they overshot on Tejas with wanting the latest foreign systems (which continues today...MK1, MK1A, MK2...) and not iterating as I keep mentioning. MMRCA was handled about as bad as a negotiation could be. Poor leadership (or no leadership overall; fun fact, India does not have a typical Military Defense Chief, it has a political committee, and their PM Modi railroaded the entire process with MMRCA 1.0).

Final point of interest: India's Defense Budget 2019-2020 is about $45B USD. For all branches. Most of that goes to staff, salaries etc. Those 36 Rafale cost about $9B USD or $250M USD per aircraft (including service and spares). It makes every sense that India would put those kind of resources into its own program to keep funds in house and have future self sufficiency. If it hasn't happened already, that is the type activity that needs to happen NOW.

2)India does not currently have the capability to produce advanced fighter aircraft

I mean, I think the reality says otherwise. And 'advanced' is a relative term. India designed and built a fighter back in the 60s, the HF-24 (with heavy assistance from a contracted aero engineer). If they had of kept up with funding their design staff and working on the various systems things would be different today, but they didn't.

Tejas was started in the 80s and ironically ran into a major stall due to US sanctions on India (Indian designers were buying time on US wind tunnels for testing). First flight eventually took place in 2001.

I know I'm repeating myself but I will say once more: India was and is capable of putting up a fighter capable of replacing the existing MiG-21s, MiG-27s & Jaguars using more traditional (less advanced, however you want to term it) components and systems. Engines are difficult due to particular material science and manufacturing technique, true, so import those while you run a tandem research program. But BEL (Indian Electronics Company) has had Pulse Doppler Radar and other mission systems they could have started with (and again to be fair some they have used like the FCS). On top of the boom in dual-use consumer electronics technologies. But for the demand for cutting edge systems from the start, my bet is they would have been further ahead with Tejas today and in good numbers.

So I would say there was/is enough capability to replace the hundreds of aforementioned legacy aircraft to arrest the decline in fighter numbers and build a MIC that can iterate in technology from block to block and design to design. Plenty of successful industries and designs start out in a world where they are not immediately cutting edge but evolve to that level, see Samsung for a commercial entity or J-20/Type 055 for military projects. India has its issues but they were not incapable of this.



Okay, you are referring to the Su-57/FGFA program India was evaluating. Fair enough. Its still an evolving story and I too do not know all of the details. I do remember debating BarBrother(?) about the program on certain points though, and my position that modifying the airframe to add a second seat among other Indian requests, would be unlikely based on the presumption of superior mission systems and situational awareness in a 5th Gen aircraft.

There were also insinuations of Russia being uncomfortable with India having too much exposure to the aircraft before fully investing, at a time when India was potentially going to sign -and has since signed- significant military agreements with the US (COMCASA, BECA and LEMOA). For what its worth, I'm not aware of any Indian Pilot having been allowed an inspection of a F-35 cockpit either. I could be wrong though. In any case I can see difficulties from both the Indian and Russian perspective.


That's my take though - I don't see perpetual import of aircraft as a winning strategy - From the viewpoint of their force structure, their economy or their freedom of action geopolitically. Then again, it would be a big win for their primary arms dealer and perhaps even their rivals. Always two sides to the coin!
I wouldn't be surprised if someone from the Indian Air Force had seen or sat in an F-35 cockpit, I'm not aware of that happening? India, like Turkey is running Russian Air Defense Systems, so NO, they won't be getting the F-35 either?? they have been offered production of up-graded F-16s, which unlike the F-35 are not the latest "bleeding edge technology", but would be highly capable against their own "near peers"...

India has not to date built and fielded a "high end Fighter aircraft", while they seem to do fine on the low end, producing the F-16's in country would be a first step to "move up", and might well be followed by "high end production"??

I'm going to remind that tensions in Asia are extremely high, with contests for territory (China's Island building for instance), and power, you might not have another opportunity to build anything if you allow a near peer to take advantage of your relative weakness in the near term??

I see some of our friends squabbling over petty krap, and causing tensions on our own small team?? I just want to say, "get your head out of your ass"! there are those in the region who are attempting to buy friends, and throwing cash around? this is the most dangerous time in Asia since Vietnam, people better take a close look at who their friends are, and who would like to run the show??

some will of course point to the US, fair enough, but there are greater dangers lurking, here again this is my opinion, and I'm not an expert, but I am paying attention!
 

Zool

Junior Member
View attachment 53274
The existing IAF force composition in terms of mix and capacity probably both by default and design is dependent on foreign supply for some time. While India has the ambition to move its aerospace industry to self-sufficiency longer term this unfortunately has not progressed as quickly or substantively as envisaged. Is it due to a lack of a national plan, poor leadership, simply bad execution or all of the above? I leave you and others to make the judgement as I don’t have an answer. What we do know is that if the IAF intends to meet its capacity objective it has to take significant decisions quickly as the timeline is already in deficit primarily due to aging airframes.
I largely agree with this and have touched on some of the missteps leading to failure so I won't go into those again. But I agree.

View attachment 53274The pressing issue is whether the Tejas can be produced in sufficient numbers to meet the sunset plans of the Mig-21/23/27 and secondly a decision on sourcing the additional 6 squadrons.
IMO, the IAF had been pursuing a dual track approach and that is primarily to source the front-line heavy fighters externally and then progressively to acquire the technology from TOT arrangements. The second track is to build up the indigenous supply chain base through the TEJA program. Both of these tracks as we know are facing different issues. The Indians unlike the Chinese do have more options and technological support but may well be detrimental because the programs are more ambitious rather than taking an incremental approach. The Indians clearly have made a number of missteps in the process and whether the Indian bureaucracy is a major contributor I have my suspicion but no facts.
This is the crux of the problem; Tejas could be building in numbers at present at a reasonable cost, but is not due to ever changing requirements from the IAF that ask for cutting edge systems (Israeli AESA etc since India's indigenous UTTAM AESA project remains in development), in the first build of the aircraft they would be willing to accept.

Asking for the moon from the get go when the immediate need is to replace legacy aircraft with a moderate capability improvement, in numbers, with growth potential.

I find studying military development in China and India is fascinating. And it's much easier to do a deep dive on Indian data since all government and military releases are in English. But it really is like watching a train wreak..
 

Zool

Junior Member
@Zool
The HF-24 met its untimely death due to India's lack of an aerospace industry or culture ( absolutely zilch). They made the aircraft ... sure, But it was dependent on foreign Engines (British?). Sounds like Tejas, ain't it ? India is what China was 40 years ago. (YES. FORTY). It lacks the political will, financial wherewithal, technological base and most importantly clear roadmap or long term plans. Sounds like India is truly the lab rat for "aspiringsuperpower-lowermiddleincome-democracy" test which also gives a huge dose of reality check for a China and chinese who might have the occasional second thoughts about their political system.
India's problems are simple to explain and structural. There isn't a lack of talent or skill in India and Indians deliver a lot more that what is expected of them. But alas, they are entrapped by a dysfunctional political system and institutions that would not be out of place if teleported to somewhere in the Soviet block during the 70s.
I've already posted on this pretty thoroughly. You don't have an aerospace industry until you start one. India began in the 60s, dropped the ball, restarted in the 80s to present with the Tejas program among others (LCH rotary as an example).

China built an aircraft industry on Russian engines.. Canada did for a time as well using British engines. This to say that there is nothing strange or impossible for India to do the same. From the perspective of technology base, India and China were at par up to the 80s, perhaps early to mid 90s. And India today does not have the restrictions on commercial dual-use technologies and knowledge sharing that was placed on China.

As for the rest, I've harped on India enough in the context of their failures with getting an indigenous solution up and flying. There are problems for sure, and Brumby and I have brought those up already. No need to beat a dead horse.
 

Zool

Junior Member
I wouldn't be surprised if someone from the Indian Air Force had seen or sat in an F-35 cockpit, I'm not aware of that happening? India, like Turkey is running Russian Air Defense Systems, so NO, they won't be getting the F-35 either?? they have been offered production of up-graded F-16s, which unlike the F-35 are not the latest "bleeding edge technology", but would be highly capable against their own "near peers"...

India has not to date built and fielded a "high end Fighter aircraft", while they seem to do fine on the low end, producing the F-16's in country would be a first step to "move up", and might well be followed by "high end production"??

I'm going to remind that tensions in Asia are extremely high, with contests for territory (China's Island building for instance), and power, you might not have another opportunity to build anything if you allow a near peer to take advantage of your relative weakness in the near term??

I see some of our friends squabbling over petty krap, and causing tensions on our own small team?? I just want to say, "get your head out of your ass"! there are those in the region who are attempting to buy friends, and throwing cash around? this is the most dangerous time in Asia since Vietnam, people better take a close look at who their friends are, and who would like to run the show??

some will of course point to the US, fair enough, but there are greater dangers lurking, here again this is my opinion, and I'm not an expert, but I am paying attention!
Well agree to disagree I suppose. I do not suggest that India shouldn't import aircraft mind you, but that they should effectively replace a large portion of their airforce with a local solution, all things considered.

I'm going to remind that tensions in Asia are extremely high, with contests for territory (China's Island building for instance), and power, you might not have another opportunity to build anything if you allow a near peer to take advantage of your relative weakness in the near term??
It was always in my mind but I didn't want to particularly 'go there', but here goes: India is a nuclear power. With its primary rivals within range of its current delivery system technology. They have an adequate conventional armed forces to supplement that deterrence. They have the time.
 

Brumby

Major
This is the crux of the problem; Tejas could be building in numbers at present at a reasonable cost, but is not due to ever changing requirements from the IAF that ask for cutting edge systems (Israeli AESA etc since India's indigenous UTTAM AESA project remains in development), in the first build of the aircraft they would be willing to accept.

Asking for the moon from the get go when the immediate need is to replace legacy aircraft with a moderate capability improvement, in numbers, with growth potential.

I find studying military development in China and India is fascinating. And it's much easier to do a deep dive on Indian data since all government and military releases are in English. But it really is like watching a train wreak..
I don't typically follow Indian military developments and in particular the Teja program. However I did conduct some research on it in addressing your comments.

There is no dispute that the Teja program has been painfully slow in comparison to other similar programs. For example from inception to first delivery the Teja took 33 years. In contrast it was 15 years for the F-CK-1; 9 years for the T-50 and 8 tears for the JF-17. That said, 16 Teja Mk1 had been delivered to date and the initial 40 orders are is expected to be fulfilled officially by 2020. Modern fighters by nature are difficulty to implement because of avionics and systems rather than aerodynamics and in the case of the Teja Mk 1 it is probably a combination of being too ambitious and unrealistic. The initial specs issued in 1997 was for an internal SPJ system but this requirement was removed in 2009 as there was just insufficient internal space for it. Integration of the indigenous radar and the SPJ has proven to be much more difficult than initially appreciated. I made the same point in the JF-17 thread where I caution that attempts to integrate a Chinese AESA radar to a Turkish jammer will not be easy. I think this is generally not appreciated by the public but it is one of the most difficult development in modern systems. We know of the Indian problems because the programs are more transparent. The Chinese are much more opaque and even if there are problems resulting in down specs we will never know. What we do know is that the timeline on the JF-17 Block 3 has been frequently pushed back

As a result of integration and weight issues, the Indians with the Mk1A will go for the Israeli EL/M-2052 AESA radar and the EL/L-8222 SPJ which is expected to present lesser integration issues. Coming back to the Mk1, if the Indians did go for the externally mounted SPJ pod, it will have channelized receiver and the ability to simultaneously jam 5 different threats at the same time. In other words, even if the program is running late it is getting very advance systems to go with it. The Mk 2 will be a completely different design meant to replace the Mirage 2000; Mig-29's and Jaquars. This path is however far from certain as it is still subject to deliberations.
 

Zool

Junior Member
The timing of this is actually pretty funny, considering I was just mentioning the lack of this position in a larger post to Air Force Brat about the status of Indian forces. IMO probably the first good decision I've seen made related to defense by the current Indian PM.

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PM Narendra Modi Independence Day speech: The three armed forces of India will now have a post of Chief of Defence Staff that will integrate the operations of the three forces-the Army, Navy and Air Force.
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New Delhi
August 15, 2019
UPDATED: August 15, 2019 08:56 IST

In a major announcement for the three armed forces of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced that the country will now have a post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) that will integrate the operations of the three forces--the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. PM Narendra Modi said this in his Independence Day speech today.

Prime Minister Modi said the armed forces are pride of every India. He said in the changing time, there is a need for the forces to sharpen coordination.

"Our forces are India's pride. To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort: India will have a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS),"PM Modi said in his I-Day speech.

"This is going to make the forces even more effective," PM Modi said.

Our forces are India's pride.

To further sharpen coordination between the forces, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort:

India will have a Chief of Defence Staff- CDS.

This is going to make the forces even more effective: PM
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PMO India (@PMOIndia)
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Brumby

Major
Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 crashes in Assam

An Indian Air Force fighter jet crashed Thursday night in Assam. The air force jet that crashed was a Sukhoi Su-30. The Su-30 MKI fighter jet was on a routine training mission when it crashed in the paddy field in the Milanpur area and burst into flames at around 8:30 pm.

The two pilots flying the fighter safely ejected from the jet and were rescued. One of the pilots suffered injury in his leg, defence spokesperson Lt Col Harsh Wardhan Pande said.

A Court of Inquiry will investigate the cause of the crash, the Indian Air Force said.
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maint1234

New Member
Registered Member
So, you had said that you disagree India should rely on indigenous production for their main line defense aircraft, and I asked for what reasons do you think so, giving a few of my own on why they should (including the original purpose of the LCA program and where current IAF Squadron Strength is vs Sanctioned)...

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I read two trains of thought from you to answer why India should not have its own indigenous aircraft fighter program:

1)They need Capacity and Capability NOW!

This stuck out to me because you said it four times in one form or another. But on its own I don't think it is a very solid answer to my question, in context of some of the information I provided re challenges facing the IAF. It sounds urgent but bombastic. Here's why I say so:

What qualifies as NOW? What is it they need NOW? What can they afford? And is it a viable path to maintaining (or getting back to) the force structure that the IAF says they need to defend India? Sustainable over the long term or in the face of conflict attrition?

If you mean India needs these fighters (Rafale? More Su-30MKIs? F-35?) NOW as in this year, well they are only slated to begin first delivery in September. It will take two years for all 36 aircraft to be delivered. 2021. For 36 Rafale. That is two squadrons. It will likely just cover the retirement (and other losses) of aircraft from the period 2019-2021.

The MMRCA (1.0 anyway) began in the early 2000s with RFP issued in 2007. Over 12 years ago this process began. The IAF began the process already under strength at around 39 Squadrons if I remember correctly. The urgent requirement has always been there, and likely always will to some degree. India needs a 5th Gen counter to the J-20 NOW etc.

There is a MMRCA 2.0 under review currently, and if it were to actually go somewhere, India would not see aircraft delivery begin until 2024 at the very earliest. But they need planes now...

My point is, this is nation defense planning, NOW is a relatively useless term. India needs to structurally put in place a defense ecosystem that they can indigenously sustain and build on for self sufficiency. It requires long term implementation and not short term splurge. Which to be fair, they did attempt with the beginnings of Tejas and MMRCA. But they overshot on Tejas with wanting the latest foreign systems (which continues today...MK1, MK1A, MK2...) and not iterating as I keep mentioning. MMRCA was handled about as bad as a negotiation could be. Poor leadership (or no leadership overall; fun fact, India does not have a typical Military Defense Chief, it has a political committee, and their PM Modi railroaded the entire process with MMRCA 1.0).

Final point of interest: India's Defense Budget 2019-2020 is about $45B USD. For all branches. Most of that goes to staff, salaries etc. Those 36 Rafale cost about $9B USD or $250M USD per aircraft (including service and spares). It makes every sense that India would put those kind of resources into its own program to keep funds in house and have future self sufficiency. If it hasn't happened already, that is the type activity that needs to happen NOW.

2)India does not currently have the capability to produce advanced fighter aircraft

I mean, I think the reality says otherwise. And 'advanced' is a relative term. India designed and built a fighter back in the 60s, the HF-24 (with heavy assistance from a contracted aero engineer). If they had of kept up with funding their design staff and working on the various systems things would be different today, but they didn't.

Tejas was started in the 80s and ironically ran into a major stall due to US sanctions on India (Indian designers were buying time on US wind tunnels for testing). First flight eventually took place in 2001.

I know I'm repeating myself but I will say once more: India was and is capable of putting up a fighter capable of replacing the existing MiG-21s, MiG-27s & Jaguars using more traditional (less advanced, however you want to term it) components and systems. Engines are difficult due to particular material science and manufacturing technique, true, so import those while you run a tandem research program. But BEL (Indian Electronics Company) has had Pulse Doppler Radar and other mission systems they could have started with (and again to be fair some they have used like the FCS). On top of the boom in dual-use consumer electronics technologies. But for the demand for cutting edge systems from the start, my bet is they would have been further ahead with Tejas today and in good numbers.

So I would say there was/is enough capability to replace the hundreds of aforementioned legacy aircraft to arrest the decline in fighter numbers and build a MIC that can iterate in technology from block to block and design to design. Plenty of successful industries and designs start out in a world where they are not immediately cutting edge but evolve to that level, see Samsung for a commercial entity or J-20/Type 055 for military projects. India has its issues but they were not incapable of this.



Okay, you are referring to the Su-57/FGFA program India was evaluating. Fair enough. Its still an evolving story and I too do not know all of the details. I do remember debating BarBrother(?) about the program on certain points though, and my position that modifying the airframe to add a second seat among other Indian requests, would be unlikely based on the presumption of superior mission systems and situational awareness in a 5th Gen aircraft.

There were also insinuations of Russia being uncomfortable with India having too much exposure to the aircraft before fully investing, at a time when India was potentially going to sign -and has since signed- significant military agreements with the US (COMCASA, BECA and LEMOA). For what its worth, I'm not aware of any Indian Pilot having been allowed an inspection of a F-35 cockpit either. I could be wrong though. In any case I can see difficulties from both the Indian and Russian perspective.


That's my take though - I don't see perpetual import of aircraft as a winning strategy - From the viewpoint of their force structure, their economy or their freedom of action geopolitically. Then again, it would be a big win for their primary arms dealer and perhaps even their rivals. Always two sides to the coin!
Well put. You have covered everything pretty well.
I will only say that building a modern fighter jet with all Indigenous systems is very difficult, with only a handful of countries like USA, France, EU and maybe Russia capable. Russia I say maybe because their aircrafts seem to always come off second best in all encounters, in the last 30 years. I used to put it down to inferior pilots flying Russian planes but the russian plane getting shot out of the sky, with Russian pilots in Turkey was eye-opening. Now the electronic warfare system is most important in fighters and Russians seem to lag in this.
Issue with India is we have a lot of the above mentioned Russian planes - su30 mkis - of the late 90s vintage and mirage 2000 of the 80s but after every aerial conflict, the old mirage seems to come off better. To be fair the mkis have not seen serious combat but the procurement of the Rafaels and more planes, does not speak very highly of the 250 odd mkis we have.
And we can bet our bottom dollar that the new planes procured won't be Russian built.
In modern combat the price or origin of the plane becomes immaterial and the only thing that survives is the capability of the plane.
I don't see Indian made planes reaching the capability of even f16 ver 70 in the next 10 years, wrt its radar, engine or electronics. And in the meantime, China our real threat - if we believe its advance in stealth planes-- would be much ahead.
So buy the latest planes from the west for the next 10 years but keep making incremental advances in avionics in the private sector, not public.
 

Skywatcher

Captain
As a result of integration and weight issues, the Indians with the Mk1A will go for the Israeli EL/M-2052 AESA radar and the EL/L-8222 SPJ which is expected to present lesser integration issues. Coming back to the Mk1, if the Indians did go for the externally mounted SPJ pod, it will have channelized receiver and the ability to simultaneously jam 5 different threats at the same time. In other words, even if the program is running late it is getting very advance systems to go with it. The Mk 2 will be a completely different design meant to replace the Mirage 2000; Mig-29's and Jaquars. This path is however far from certain as it is still subject to deliberations.
Honestly, I don't know why they don't just call the Tejas Mk2 what it is, a new aircraft.

I reminds me of the ZTZ-99A: which has a completely different powerplant, chassis (the roadwheel arrangement and glacis plate are different), different turret. The only things it has in common with the ZTZ-99 are the autoloader and machine guns (I think).
 

Brumby

Major
Honestly, I don't know why they don't just call the Tejas Mk2 what it is, a new aircraft.
Mk2 designation is probably misleading as it will be a MWF design unlike Mk1 which is LCA. The Teja brand itself is likely bad optics because of the long development timeline.

The piece I cannot get my hands around is the development time gap between Mk1 and Mk1A which the latter is not expected to have its first flight until 2022. The main upgrade to my knowledge is the AESA radar and the LRUs reconfiguration to bring down the weight. If this is a realistic timeline for an AESA upgrade then I would question the timeline on the JH-17 Block 3 which is essentially also an AESA upgrade. The PAF to my knowledge has not made a final decision on the radar but yet it is rumored to fly by end of 2019.

In comparison, it took 18 months to upgrade the ROCAF's first F-16 to the V standard and considering the APG-83 is a matured product on an existing airframe. There are things just not adding up.
 

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