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Aswin_hht

New Member
Registered Member
India has undoubtedly made significant progress over the lengthy gestation of LCA, and I'm sure that a useful aircraft (Mark 1A) will eventually emerge from this decades-long sausage-making progress. But we should not fall into the trap of assuming that this tortuous path was the only or best one available. The mismanagement goes back decades.

The expertise gained by developing and operating the HF-24 Marut should not have been discarded as it was. The mid-1980s ASQRs that Dassault's consultant engineers dutifully fulfilled should not have been written as they were, resulting in a design with little room for growth and on a razor's edge for weight management, both items that have plagued the project ever since. The weight management issues should have been recognised in the 1990s by robust modelling and testing facilities and the program rebooted or abandoned at that point. Dassault's offer to transfer the entire Mirage 2000 assembly line in the early 2000s should've been taken up and spelled the end of the Tejas project. If it had been, India could today be operating hundreds of affordable and credible Mirage 2000s with a high level of indigenous content and perhaps even have brought Dassault's large Mirage 4000 prototype to fruition, and probably fewer Su-30MKIs that IAF complains about the cost of operating. Even if this had not occurred, the urgency of recapitalising the inventory should have produced a different outcome in the MMRCA context, with plausible "value for money" candidates being F-16, Gripen, or MiG-35, rather than the more expensive Rafale and Typhoon that I believe were shortlisted for a combination of performance and strategic-industrial reasons. That program of course fell flat on its face and IAF is still trying to pick up the pieces. The failures of high-level oversight, rigorous engineering practices, and clear-eyed appreciation of what is and is not possible in relevant timeframes and at acceptable costs are clear.
Yeah, I agree. India is yet to reach the place where defence development and procurement process would progress smoothly but looking at the progress made, she will eventually get there. The MMRCA mishap was a major disaster for the IAF. At this point india have already committed to Rafale and must procure it in large numbers but the damn thing is so freaking expensiv. On some level, it do seem like India has pushed itself to a corner with Rafale (from an affordability and ToT point of view).
 

Sardaukar20

Senior Member
Registered Member
I am going to say something positive about Tejas here. Much as we all on SDF like to laugh at it, the fact is that, you have to start somewhere. In this respect, Tejas is to India's aerospace industry what the JH-7 was to China's. Yes, it uses a lot of foreign parts (but not second-hand ones like JH-7s RR Spey engines). Yes, it's a long way behind the leading edge of air combat aircraft (as was JH-7 when introduced). However, it does provide some capability and, more importantly, experience in designing and producing an indigenous combat aircraft. The basic design can be and is being improved on and indigenized. In short, this is exactly the way India should be proceeding.
I disagree. India had already started somewhere: the HAL HF-24 Marut. Developed in the 1950s with help from German aeronautical engineer Kurt Tank and introduced into service in 1967. It was the first successfully developed jet fighter by an Asian nation. The plane had its issues, such as underperformance, and high procurement price compared to fully imported fighter jets (sounds familiar). Nevertheless, on paper, India should have kicked-off its combat aviation industry from 1967 already. India's indigenous jet fighter program was far ahead of China at that time. India had its first indigenous jet fighter design (with German help) by 1967, while China only had its own J-8 by 1980. That's a 13-year head start. Couple that with generous imports of combat aircraft from both the West and Russia, and with much better deals than what China have gotten, India's jet fighter program should have been ahead of China's by now.

Yet after the HF-24 Marut, the next Indian fighter jet of indigenous design is the Tejas, introduced in 2015, 48 years later. Within that timeframe, China introduced its first indigenous fighter jet, the J-8 in 1980, then the JH-7 in 1992, and then the J-10 in 2005. In 2017, 2 years after India introduced its Tejas, China introduces its J-20. Note that as of today, India is still struggling to source for more than 50% of indigenous components in the Tejas, while China had achieved 100% indigenous components in the J-20. From 1967 to 2023, India had progressed from HF-24 Marut to Tejas. While from 1980 to 2023, China had progressed from J-8 to J-20. I'm sorry, but there is just no comparison between India and China. Even China's renegade province of Taiwan had the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo in 1992, and I still consider that a Chinese-developed fighter jet. If we want to compare India's jet fighter industry with another country, then South Korea, Japan, Pakistan, Israel, and Iran are more suitable rivals, as they are in the same league. I would even argue that India is not the best among them.
 
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yungho

Junior Member
Registered Member
In retrospect, the PAK FA not working out for Russia and subsequently India was devastating. India could be procuring dozens of SU-57s right now to counter China's J-20s and any aircraft Pakistan fields. Now it looks like Pakistan may get the TF-X or FC-31 before India gets it's 5th gen program off the ground. Of course, PAK FA being successful was a long shot given what we know now, but in an ideal world India would've had a fighter more stealthy and capable than the Rafale.

Then again maybe it's not too bad as I doubt India gets into a massive conflict in the anytime soon so they have time to work on their indigenous projects.
 

Rank Amateur

Junior Member
Registered Member
India has undoubtedly made significant progress over the lengthy gestation of LCA, and I'm sure that a useful aircraft (Mark 1A) will eventually emerge from this decades-long sausage-making progress. But we should not fall into the trap of assuming that this tortuous path was the only or best one available. The mismanagement goes back decades.

The expertise gained by developing and operating the HF-24 Marut should not have been discarded as it was. The mid-1980s ASQRs that Dassault's consultant engineers dutifully fulfilled should not have been written as they were, resulting in a design with little room for growth and on a razor's edge for weight management, both items that have plagued the project ever since. The weight management issues should have been recognised in the 1990s by robust modelling and testing facilities and the program rebooted or abandoned at that point. Dassault's offer to transfer the entire Mirage 2000 assembly line in the early 2000s should've been taken up and spelled the end of the Tejas project. If it had been, India could today be operating hundreds of affordable and credible Mirage 2000s with a high level of indigenous content and perhaps even have brought Dassault's large Mirage 4000 prototype to fruition, and probably fewer Su-30MKIs that IAF complains about the cost of operating. Even if this had not occurred, the urgency of recapitalising the inventory should have produced a different outcome in the MMRCA context, with plausible "value for money" candidates being F-16, Gripen, or MiG-35, rather than the more expensive Rafale and Typhoon that I believe were shortlisted for a combination of performance and strategic-industrial reasons. That program of course fell flat on its face and IAF is still trying to pick up the pieces. The failures of high-level oversight, rigorous engineering practices, and clear-eyed appreciation of what is and is not possible in relevant timeframes and at acceptable costs are clear.

“Dassault's offer to transfer the entire Mirage 2000 assembly line in the early 2000s should've been taken up and spelled the end of the Tejas project. If it had been, India could today be operating hundreds of affordable and credible Mirage 2000s with a high level of indigenous content and perhaps even have brought Dassault's large Mirage 4000 prototype to fruition….”

That’s a very interesting alternative timeline: China would have its Sino-Flankers, and India would have its Indo-Mirages.
 

Aswin_hht

New Member
Registered Member
In retrospect, the PAK FA not working out for Russia and subsequently India was devastating. India could be procuring dozens of SU-57s right now to counter China's J-20s and any aircraft Pakistan fields. Now it looks like Pakistan may get the TF-X or FC-31 before India gets it's 5th gen program off the ground. Of course, PAK FA being successful was a long shot given what we know now, but in an ideal world India would've had a fighter more stealthy and capable than the Rafale.

Then again maybe it's not too bad as I doubt India gets into a massive conflict in the anytime soon so they have time to work on their indigenous projects.
Well, the option still exist for India, Su-57 matured into a good aircraft and India still has access to it if needed. Sure the FGFA program‘s success would’ve been better but not all join-ventures would work out the same way. I think India would wait until Su-57M gets into production and then assess if such a platform is required or not.
But it is true that Pakistan could have access to fifth generation aircrafts before India does.
 

Lethe

Captain
Yeah, I agree. India is yet to reach the place where defence development and procurement process would progress smoothly but looking at the progress made, she will eventually get there. The MMRCA mishap was a major disaster for the IAF. At this point india have already committed to Rafale and must procure it in large numbers but the damn thing is so freaking expensiv. On some level, it do seem like India has pushed itself to a corner with Rafale (from an affordability and ToT point of view).

I would like to think that India (IAF, MoD, PMO, HAL, ADA, DRDO, GTRE, etc.) has learned the lessons of the past decades well. I would like to think that LCA Mk. 1A production will ramp up smoothly, that the development of LCA Mk. 2, TEDBF, AMCA, Kaveri (in its nth iteration) will progress smoothly and deliver on their respective notional schedules, or at least within a reasonable variance therefrom. I would like to think these things, but I am far from confident that they will happen. I am pessimistic because I do not believe that India's failures to date are a function of limited technology and funding, but rather are a consequence of inadequate political-strategic guidance and oversight from executive levels of government, of dysfunctional institutional cultures and relationships between institutions (e.g. HAL and IAF), and a lack of realism (or even honesty) about what is possible within a given timeframe and budget, coupled with a lack of clarity about what is truly important. Issues such as these are not going to disappear simply because there have been certain advancements made over the course of the LCA program in e.g. the manufacturing of composites.

I sincerely hope that my pessimism proves ill-founded.

“Dassault's offer to transfer the entire Mirage 2000 assembly line in the early 2000s should've been taken up and spelled the end of the Tejas project. If it had been, India could today be operating hundreds of affordable and credible Mirage 2000s with a high level of indigenous content and perhaps even have brought Dassault's large Mirage 4000 prototype to fruition….”

That’s a very interesting alternative timeline: China would have its Sino-Flankers, and India would have its Indo-Mirages.

It was a massive missed opportunity. The IAF was very happy with the Mirage 2000s performance in the 1999 Kargil conflict, and with the cooperation it received from Dassault during that period. As a modestly-sized, single-engine aircraft it was well matched to India's need for an aircraft that could be produced in large numbers. And given that it was then in the process of being superseded by the new Rafale, Dassault would likely have been much more inclined to move beyond a standard "license production" arrangement to more complete transfer of the aircraft's design, enabling technologies, and full rights. If it had gone ahead, India today could be operating hundreds of very credible Mirage 2000s with ongoing integration of new indigenous systems and technologies as they emerge, these endeavours energising the domestic industrial base and providing a path forward into the future.

I think there are probably three reasons it didn't happen:

1. The typical administrative sclerosis that manifests across most Indian programs.
2. It would likely have meant the end of the LCA program, a decision not to be taken lightly, and which domestic stakeholders would undoubtedly have opposed irrespective of the merits of the proposal (this is probably also what doomed Gripen in the MMRCA contest).
3. Cultural resistance to the idea of spending billions of dollars on acquiring tooling, rights etc. for an "outdated" aircraft.

Of course we don't actually know the specifics of Dassault's proposal and how much they wanted for it. It's possible that India examined Dassault's proposal closely and rejected it for sound reasons. But it seems unlikely that Dassault would not have been prepared to negotiate in good faith, given the alternative of simply winding down the Mirage 2K production line without further compensation, as actually occurred.
 
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Aswin_hht

New Member
Registered Member
I would like to think that India (IAF, MoD, South Block, HAL, ADA, DRDO, GTRE, etc.) has learned the lessons of the past decades well. I would like to think that LCA Mk. 1A production will ramp up smoothly, that the development of LCA Mk. 2, TEDBF, AMCA, Kaveri (in its nth iteration) will progress smoothly and deliver on their respective notional schedules, or at least within a reasonable variance therefrom. I would like to think these things, but I am far from confident that they will happen. I am pessimistic because I do not believe that India's failures to date are a function of limited technology and funding, but rather are a consequence of inadequate political-strategic guidance and oversight from executive levels of government, of dysfunctional institutional cultures and relationships between institutions (e.g. HAL and IAF), and a lack of realism (or even honesty) about what is possible within a given timeframe and budget, coupled with a lack of clarity about what is truly important. Issues such as these are not going to disappear simply because there have been certain advancements made over the course of the LCA program in e.g. the manufacturing of composites.

I sincerely hope that my pessimism proves ill-founded.



It was a massive missed opportunity. The IAF was very happy with the Mirage 2000s performance in the 1999 Kargil conflict, and with the cooperation it received from Dassault during that period. As a modestly-sized, single-engine aircraft it was well suited to India's requirements for an aircraft that could be produced in large numbers. And given that it was then in the process of being superseded by the new Rafale, Dassault would likely have been much more inclined to move beyond a standard "license production" arrangement to more complete transfer of the aircraft's design, enabling technologies, and full rights. If it had gone ahead, India today could be operating hundreds of very credible Mirage 2000s with ongoing integration of new indigenous systems and technologies as they emerge, these endeavours energising the domestic industrial base and providing a path forward into the future.

I think there are probably three reasons it didn't happen:

1. The typical administrative sclerosis that manifests across most Indian programs.
2. It would likely have meant the end of the LCA program, a decision not to be taken lightly, and which domestic stakeholders would undoubtedly have opposed irrespective of the merits of the proposal (this is probably also what doomed Gripen in the MMRCA contest).
3. Cultural resistance to the idea of spending billions of dollars on acquiring tooling, rights etc. for an "outdated" aircraft.

Of course we don't actually know the specifics of Dassault's proposal and how much they wanted for it. It's possible that India examined Dassault's proposal closely and rejected it for sound reasons. But it seems unlikely that Dassault would not have been prepared to negotiate in good faith, given the alternative of simply winding down the Mirage 2K production line without further compensation, as actually occurred.
I agree with your point in the sense that the issues with Indian defence development is mostly because of lack of direction, political guidance, lack of ordination among organisations and many systemic deficiencies but at the same time, it has always been that way in India in every single aspect. My optimism in this regard is primarily charged by the fact that India always thrived in chaotic order, the ability of making things work in an absolute mess. This obviously isn’t ideal and not the right approach, it takes a lot of time to reach there (time can be very crucial) and might still not be an efficient system but it has worked. I hope it is the case in this regard.
 
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