Growing Panache of Indian Military Might - Part 2
Post date: Oct 18, 2018 3:19:0 AM
By SACRIR Defense Desk Editor: Swarna Surjya Chakraborty
Contd. from Part 1...
The Indian Air Force (IAF):
Recognized once as one of the best air forces in the world the IAF has significantly lost its edge in the
last few decades courtesy their depleting fleet size. According to Ministry of Defense (MoD) India needs
to maintain around 42 squadrons with 18 aircraft per squadron to maintain a dominance in the
subcontinent. Currently India operates 31 active squadrons comprising mostly of Russian vintage MIG-
21 interceptors, MIG-27 ground attack fighters, MIG-29 along with Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKI air
superiority fighters complemented by multi role deep strike French Mirage 2000 and UK's Jaguars. The
falling fleet is aggravated further by the fact that the Russian MIG's would soon go out of service leaving
India with just 22 active squadrons which is very alarming. The MIGs in IAF are considered as 'Flying
Coffins'; due to their high crash rates and fatalities. India has lost a lot of IAF pilots recently in MIG
crashes. Russia and MIG in particular have a poor serviceability record and low availability rates which
sometimes plummet below 50%.
For these reasons India has started looking towards France and US for new aircraft and recently IAF
zeroed in on 4th generation Rafale Multi Role fighter which is not only outstanding in Dog fights but
equally good for ground attack and weapon compatibility. A total of 36 of these are ordered for now.
There is also an RFP floated for the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) for 110 more aircraft in which a
lot of global players like Lockheed Martin F-16, Boeing F-18A, MIG-35, Sukhoi Su-35, Dassault Rafale,
SAAB Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon are likely to participate. But the problem arises with the delay in
the procurement process which is around 5 years typically. Living with the depleting strength asks for a
stop gap arrangement which makes a strong case for HAL Tejas.
HAL Tejas is indeed a good option having a very promising specification with a 4 plus generation capability.
Tejas also makes a good sense as there is no risk in technology transfers and availability of spares
because of its Indian origin. Due of its carbon composite wing construction the Tejas is very good at
stealth as its Radar cross section is very less. Tejas also supports a myriad variety of compatible weapons
because of its open source software. But again the inefficiency of HAL comes in the way of its FOC and
production. One of the most significant deficiency of Tejas is its low combat radius which is far lesser
than similar LCAs even with the same engine. An advanced version of Tejas / AMCA is also in works.
Helicopters: Like the Army aviation the air Force will soon get Apache and HAL LCH attack helicopters
which will complement the existing fleet of Dhruva, Chetak, Cheetah, MI-8, MI-17, MI-25/26/35 and HAL
Rudra. India is also on the lookout to procuring Kamov KA-226 light utility helicopter from Russia.
HAL LCH: This is an advanced version of the indigenous HAL Rudra with similar engine and specification
but for a dedicated role. The LCH is good at mountain attacks, can land at higher mountain peaks and
can climb at the rate of 12 m/sec. It can carry a lot of air to air and anti-tank weapons like Helina / NAG.
It can also fire DRDO's (Defence Research and Development Organization) anti-radiation missile.
Reconnaissance: IAF uses Israeli ‘Searcher’ and ';Heron'; UAVs for reconnaissance purpose.
IAF also deploys Israeli PHALCON airborne Advanced Warning & Control System (AW&CS) built on
Bombardier aircraft for aerial surveillance. MoD has recently sanctioned the purchase of 2 Israeli AW&CS
to be installed on Russian Ilyushin 76 heavy lift aircraft.
Transport: IAF uses a host of aircraft including the US made humongous ‘C-17 Globemaster’ and ‘C-130J
Super Hercules’ for transport of logistics and personnel. Besides National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL)
has developed SARAS for small scale defense transports.
Radars: DRDO has manufactured an advanced AESA radar ‘Uttam’ which would be used in future
aircraft of IAF. Besides that IAF also uses Israeli DARIN III and ELTA radars for advanced warning and
Missiles: IAF uses a range of foreign and indigenous missiles including NAG/Helina anti-tank missile,
ASTRA BVR and Derby. NAG is a category of anti-tank 'Fire & Forget' guided missiles.
The LCH/LCA mounted variant is called HELINA while the launcher version is called NAMICA.
The NAG is manufactured by BEL and it uses an image IR sensor and active radar homing for necessary
flight path correction. ASTRA is a DRDO developed ';Beyond Visual Range'; air to air missile.
With a range of around 80 Km it has already been deployed in Tejas MK1 with other aircraft following suite.
It also employs active radar homing technology and categorized as a 'Fire & Forget'; missile.
Apart from all these India is working with Russia towards the development of a 5 th generation stealth
fighter named Sukhoi SU-57. India has also reportedly approached Russia towards the upgrade of the
avionics and radars in their existing fleet of SU-30 MKI.
Final take on IAF: While it’s a fact that Quality trounces Quantity but when put against a two front attack
both Quality and Quantity matter. India's depleting fleet doesn’t even stand close to the joint size of our
two formidable neighbors. According to the Chief Air Marshal Mr. Birender Singh Dhanoa none of the
neighbors are sitting idle just to give India a chance to get equipped. India needs numbers in its favor
fast and that too capable enough to gun down enemy aircraft. This shortfall is created as a result of
long term apathy and lack of financial patronage to the IAF. The situation is so bad that India even
doesn’t match the number of air borne AW&CS that Pakistan has. In absence of a capable aircraft India
cannot match the Chinese Jengdu J20 or SU35 for that matter. India is also short of UAVs and the
domestic industry isn’t doing enough. The current Government should be credited for their decision to
fast track the Rafale purchase and acquire all 36 of them in fly away condition. The Gas Turbine
Research Establishment (GTRE) developed India’s own jet engine project (Kaveri) has now obtained
necessary clearances and certification recently partnering with the French Engine manufacturer SAFRAN
after years of failed attempts. While the home grown HAL, Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA),
DRDO and GTRE have improved their performance over the years they are far from being world class
and require to concentrate more on R&D activities.
Contd... To Next Part
Disclaimer: Some information are sourced from various public domain and open sources like, MoD portals, Wiki, Journals etc.