Ajai Shukla : Where Is India’s Light Fighter?

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by Singh, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    The Rafale does not meet India's requirement for a light fighter. It is time to commit the money, manpower and planning resources needed for making the Tejas (pictured here) a success

    by Ajai Shukla

    Business Standard, 7th Feb 12

    Kudos to the government for selecting a fighter aircraft for a depleted Indian Air Force, which currently fields barely 34 fighter squadrons (21 aircraft per squadron) against an assessed requirement of 45. While zeroing in on the French Rafale, New Delhi has said “no thanks” to arms supply heavyweights whose political and technological clout often bludgeons procurement decisions in their favour. This was helped, admittedly, by India’s ability to soothe the losers with alternative largesse --- Washington with contracts for transport and maritime aircraft; Moscow with deals for helicopters, fighters and warships; London with trainer jets; and Stockholm with the hope of mammoth deals for artillery guns and conventional submarines. But that should not detract from the IAF’s credit for running a fair, transparent and relatively quick contest in which, for the first time in India, a detailed “life cycle” evaluation looked beyond the fighter’s ticker price at the cost of operating it through a service life of four decades.

    The difficulty in conducting such an exercise is illustrated in Brazil, where competing pulls and pressures have stymied a simpler decision between the Boeing F/A-18, the Rafale and the Gripen NG fighters.

    India’s decision stemmed from Defence Minister AK Antony’s insistence on letting the IAF determine which aircraft best met its needs. But, sadly, this unwise reliance on the views of fighter pilots alone has twisted the rationale for buying a fighter. Instead of the cheap, single-engine, light fighter that the IAF set out to buy in the 1990s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fleet, the IAF will have 126 heavy, twin-engine and enormously expensive Rafales.

    These 6 squadrons of Rafales could go up to 9 squadrons through a follow-on order, say IAF planners. Add to those 12 squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI, and another 12 squadrons of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) that India is co-developing with Russia, and the IAF will field 33 squadrons of heavy, high-performance fighters by 2022, i.e. 75% of its 45-squadron fighter fleet. This might gladden the heart of a young fighter pilot, just as a fleet of Ferraris would gladden the heart of a college-going youngster, even if his commute were two kilometres through crowded traffic. But it is worrisome to a defence planner who seeks a balanced force for performing a multitude of tasks economically.

    Light fighters are affordable, and cheaper to buy and to fly. Being smaller, they are inherently more stealthy, or less observable on enemy radars. A top-class light fighter is one-third the cost of a Rafale. Even though the Rafale is a powerful, high-quality brute of a combat machine, it will almost always lose in a contest with three modern light fighters. “Quality is fine,” said Stalin, always the pragmatist; “But quantity has a quality of its own.”

    That is why the USAF and the Israeli air forces have large fleets of single-engine F-16 fighters. That is also the logic for India’s MiG-21 fleet and for the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) that will replace it. In the late 1990s, whilst justifying the procurement of fighters from abroad, the IAF cited delays in the Tejas programme and suggested that the Mirage-2000 production line be bought from Dassault, and the single-engine fighter be built in India. But when the MoD, still smarting from the Tehelka exposes, insisted on a multi-vendor global tender, the IAF reframed its requirements. The term became MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) and the specifications favoured a twin-engine, heavy fighter. Astonishingly nobody in the MoD seemed to notice the turnabout or object to the contradiction.

    Today, India’s light fighter hangars are emptying fast with replacements lagging. By 2013-14, seven squadrons of Mig-21s must retire; another six squadrons will be phased out by 2017, as will four squadrons of MiG-27s. It is vital, therefore, to drive home the indigenous Tejas programme, committing the money, resources and organisational effort needed for developing and manufacturing at least 10-12 squadrons of progressively improved Tejas light fighters.

    Compared to the estimated Rs 75,000 crore for just 126 Rafale, the Tejas’s budget has been a pittance. Since 1983, Rs 9,690 crore has gone into aerospace infrastructure --- R&D laboratories, defence factories, private industry, academic institutions, and a world-class test facility, the National Flight Testing Centre (NFTC) --- and into building and flight-testing some twenty Tejas prototypes. Rs 4,353 crore more are earmarked for the Tejas Mark II. Boosted allocations must now expand R&D facilities and up-skill the manpower that drives the Tejas programme.

    Simultaneously, a world-class Tejas assembly facility must be built, incorporating the manufacturing practices and quality control measures that characterise aircraft production worldwide. Currently Tejas manufacture is the responsibility of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, which has been without a CEO since Ashok Nayak retired last October. With HAL’s focus on ongoing production lines like the Sukhoi-30MKI, Tejas assembly is hardly a priority. Nor is there emphasis on reducing manufacturing cost, which is currently too high at Rs 180-200 crore ($36-40 million) per Tejas Mark I. That must be brought down to Rs 125-150 crore ($25-30 million) to make the LCA a compelling buy on the international market. Export orders would allow scale manufacturing, driving down prices further.

    Paying Rs 75,000 crore for the Rafale will indeed boost national defence. But a far smaller expenditure on the Indian aerospace establishment, and the squeezing of key technologies from Dassault and Thales during contract negotiations, will ensure that the Rafale is the last fighter that India buys abroad.

    Broadsword: Where is India’s light fighter?
     
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  3. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    Nice article. We need LCA to come on soon. These delays are playing havoc for the country.
     
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  4. Killswitch

    Killswitch Regular Member

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    The LCA has failed in its main mission: to replace the mig 21.

    Time to relegate it to a tech demonstrator and build more mki's and rafales.
     
  5. ace009

    ace009 Freakin' Fighter fan Elite Member

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    Really? GoI has allocated 3300 crores for LCA development (including tooling, factory setup, infrastructure development etc) till date. Total amount to be spent is around 8700 crores of rupees. That amounts to about 1/50 th of the amount we are spending on MMRCA (42000 crores) and 1/70 th of what we spent for MKI (55,000 crores).
    With so little investment, so little political will and little IAF support (remember, IAF has changed it's needs 3 times since the original RFI was issued), not to mention so little infrastructure/ experience for combat aircraft development in India it is a veritable miracle that the LCA is where it is now. Id we destroy the Tejas program now, it will be not only idiotic,but also criminally unpatriotic. We will make sure that India is doomed to be dependant upon foreign combat aircraft forever.

    The real choice is to hunker down, hire engineers, managers and scientists from world over (maybe even buy out foreign companies and bring their human resources and IP assets to India) and f**king build the LCA Mk-2 and induct them into IAF.

    MACHINIST - Procurement cost of Su-30 MKI over Rs.55,717 cr; LCA about Rs.8691 cr
     
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  6. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    tell him that his favorite UNCLE Sam is the reason LCA is not available now....
     
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  7. ace009

    ace009 Freakin' Fighter fan Elite Member

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    What has Uncle Sam go to do with it? The sanctions? It was a small hindrance - not the major cause of delay.

    The major cause of delay were the following -

    1. GoI not putting up enough funds.
    2. Lack of R&D brains and infrastructure (some of it we could have imported, the rest can only come with enough time).
    3. Lack of political will to "push" and IAF "pull".
     
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  8. agentperry

    agentperry Senior Member Senior Member

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    nice and balanced article, though tejas is nowhere in sight but still its importance will be felt in short while. our defence planners are police officials and administrative services people, im not saying that they shouldnt be party to it but defence personnel should also be in the committee.
    a global downturn in 2007 affected India too and if godforbid in future a recession hits India then these fuel guzzlers wont be able to take off with ease. reduced sorties and uncovered air space will be a big cause of worry for India and big lucrative opportunity for enemies.
     
  9. ashicjose

    ashicjose Regular Member

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    late aayi vanthalum latest aayi varuven.
     
  10. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Your math is entirely wrong. If you don't consider inflation then the Saab Gripen program is actually cheaper than the entire LCA Mk1 and MK2 programs, by 2018.

    According to ADA, as of 2010 the total LCA program costs including induction of 123 aircraft will be around $11Billion as compared to $13.5Billion for 120 Gripens in service as of that day in the SAF. Of course costs have increased after that announcement for the LCA. This cost does not include the costs for developing the Kaveri engine and definitely not the Kaveri II with France.

    Please learn correct info instead of spouting half informed nonsense. Acquisition costs are much higher than development costs. So, the money to acquire aircraft like Rafale and MKI will be higher, especially if you consider multiple LCAs will be needed to match one MKI in terms of capability.

    Btw, in the article you posted, the total costs for MKI's development and acquisition of 272 aircraft is Rs 55717 Crores. The cost of Rs 8691 Crores is for acquisition of 20 LCA Mk1s and 20 LCA Mk2s along with development costs. That's a total of 40 aircraft. Kaveri has been delinked. If 83 more are ordered then LCA costs will increase by another 15000 Crores. So, that would push up the cost to ~Rs 23000 Crores. Half the cost for a fleet that is half the size as the MKI's fleet.

    If you think we should spend more money than Saab did in order to build an aircraft which is more or less in the same class, then tell me what in that is justified? I wonder what made you compare the costs of a Tata Nano(LCA) to the Ferrari of the sky(Flanker)? Look at capabilities offered too. A single MKI can perform the duties of an entire Mig-21 Bison squadron, as told by IAF. LCA is not in the same ballpark in terms of capabilities.

    Figure it out. You work in the R&D field after all.

    No one is destroying the LCA program. Once this is done, the AMCA program will start with the same design team and R&D team.
     
  11. ace009

    ace009 Freakin' Fighter fan Elite Member

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    Again P2prada, you talk about meaningless stuff.
    The "math" is AK Anthonies report to parliament. And no it is not just for 40 aircraft. It is for the infrastructure, research, development, tooling, production and assembly of two different versions of the Tejas.
    The Gripen did not need the infrastructure, most of the R&D was available from the Viggen and much of the tool
    ing and manpower.

    Even by your estimates, 220 Tejas costing $11 billion- is $50 million each. Here is the price for the Gripen $74 million.

    http://www.google.com/m/url?ei=uLw_...0QFjAB&usg=AFQjCNFGi6q1bC9vQx9tyHMArkOhooqKAQ

    The Tejas, excluding the infra cost would be much cheaper than the Gripen. Only if it came fast.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2012
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  12. Tamil Arasan

    Tamil Arasan Regular Member

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    The effective way for any government projects to succeed in India is to give it in our private corporate hands fully or start the projects in collaboration with them, best example is the way the CWG games and the Formula one race conducted in Delhi recently. CWG games head the crooked baxxtaxd Suresh Kalmadi had almost 10 years and massive budget of public money in his hand but yet he made the nation feel ashamed in-front of the world leading to the actual event, but on the other hand the Jaypee Group built the Buddh International Circuit in 3 years short span of time and hosted the F1 race event with pin point accuracy with out any issue and received praise from all over the world by the F1 race critics and followers - the F1 event is more complicated and technically advanced compared to hosting any other sports event, you can't compromise any slightest of standard in constructing the race circuit - which will lead to catastrophe for the main event, with need of such high standard the Jaypee Group have hosted the event with out any major help from our government...

    Also today our IT companies are able to deliver products worth billions of dollar to all the major fortune 500 hundred companies and have achieved the best of best IT standard, and in Manufacturing sector too companies such us L&T , TATA , Bharath Forge and many more are major global players with high quality products, and they are able to achieve it with our local engineering talents. The issue with government organisation is once you are in to the payroll - till your retirement you will get periodical increment and promotion no matter your performance is!!!

    The other example is our airports, first time I used Mumbai airport was around 1995, and believe me it was rainy season, and inside the international airport because of the wet carpet floor it was stinking and no one was bothered to stop the smell, and i could see many international passengers where covering their nose with hanky, I felt so bad because airports are the first impression a country going to create on a international traveler about a country, but few years later I was traveling to Chennai (2004) from the Mumbai domestic airport and was amazed to see a world class facility constructed and maintained by the GVK Group, but thought all this shiny look will be there only for few months, and later with out any proper maintenance it will be ruined, but to my surprise I found the domestic airport is in even better shape in 2010 when I used it last time, the one thing clear from the above news is the Mumbai domestic airport is now handled by the private corporate GVK group, my strong recommendation is collaboration with our private sector will reap fruitful result for any government projects...
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  13. ashicjose

    ashicjose Regular Member

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    Please put some light.....
    The production of mk1/mk2 started or not ?
     
  14. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    why would LCA be rushed if there maybe TOT from MRCA that can possibly be utilized in LCA??
     
  15. ace009

    ace009 Freakin' Fighter fan Elite Member

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    IMHO, IAF needs a frontline interceptor today. A reasonably good one (LCA now ) is better than a really good one 10 years later. If such technology does come in due to MMRCA deal, HAL can upgrade the existing LCA; can build a B / C versions too.
     
  16. ashicjose

    ashicjose Regular Member

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    Air superiority cum striker -MKI
    Striker cum air superiority fighter -MMRCA
    Numeral advantage (LMRA) -LCA
     
  17. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Even the MKI has cost us development money. Who do you think funded the R&D for MKI? The Russians had no money in 1996.

    That is completely wrong. Gripen did need new infrastructure. Sure there were cost benefits from the Viggen, but the program was a decade older. We can't build an AMCA with the LCA infrastructure at all. It is impossible. You know that. New complexes are being built for AMCA, including multiple Anechoic chambers and maybe even a Radar range(I guess in Chitradurga). Everything costs money and the Gripen was far ahead of it's time and is still ahead of the LCA.

    Gripen costs lesser and there are added costs for labour. You are into R&D in the US, will you be willing to take home a pay of $1500 a month(before 6th pay commission) or around $2500/month in our work environment. I am sure your pay is way higher than what our top scientists get. So, calculate that over 15 years for over 10000 scientists and technicians who get paid between $1000-$2500 a month and compare the pay in Sweden for the same.

    However the point I was making is that LCA had more than enough funding. ADA and DRDO could not deliver because of a host of other reasons.

    Also my estimate for LCA's cost being Rs 23000 Crores is by govt estimates. The Rs 8500 odd Crores + $40Milllion for each LCA multiplied by 83 extra units. That is half that of the MKI, so we can establish the fact that the money sanctioned for LCA was more than enough.

    Btw, the Kaveri program is worth Rs 3000Crores already. This wasn't added in the estimate of 8500 crores. Other than that GTRE has asked GoI to release Rs 10000 Crores for Kaveri 2 with France. Add this to the current LCA program and we will have around Rs 35000 Crores spent on the LCA alone. Even AESA has been delinked, so the costs for that need to be added as well.

    The Gripen's cost of $13.5Billion is inclusive of the RM-12 engine.

    So, let's stop spreading false info by comparing LCA's development costs to MKI's acquisition costs. LCA has excellent funding.
     
  18. arya

    arya Senior Member Senior Member

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    yes we are responsible for the delay , govt and even IAF don't want lca , every one want imported brand no one want local brand
     
  19. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    Main issues with LCA are the engine and the Radar. Both of these IMO
    can be resolved as side deals in Rafele win (snemca ,RBE2 radar etc..).
     
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  20. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    the engines delayed it for at least a few years... so if not for US we would have seen the LCA flying now
     
  21. Mad Indian

    Mad Indian Proud Bigot Veteran Member Senior Member

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    But sir you are not figuring in the life time service costs and serviceability costs , not to mention the jobs it will create now and in future along with technological know how we will get from it... So all in all LCA Programme is much cheaper than the Gripens or any thing else we could have bought....
     

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