Indian Air Force’s falling strength and problematic force structure, combined with its troubled acquisition and development programs, threaten India’s air superiority over its rapidly modernising rivals, China and Pakistan.
Air dominance is vital for India to have deterrence stability in southern Asia and for preserving the strategic balance in the wider Indo-Pacific region. The recent MIG crash in Rajasthan has once again highlighted the worsening condition of our Air Force.
The government is now getting all set to ink the long-awaited contract for the direct acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France for the IAF, which is grappling with just 33 fighter squadrons when at least 42 are needed to tackle the collusive threat from China and Pakistan.
The NDA Government wants to cut time and cost and hence is pushing for the direct acquisition of 36 Rafales. Earlier under the original MMRCA (Medium multi-role combat aircraft) the first 18 fighters were to be delivered off the 126 fighters, which would’ve cost around $20 Billion and now, under the new deal 36 Rafales will be directly delivered to India from 2019 onwards.
While the jets will not be made in India, the deal does have a 50% offsets clause, as was the case in the MMRCA project, under which France will have to plough half of the actual contract value back into India.
The 36 jets are to be delivered in the same configuration as were tested and approved by the IAF during extensive field trials in the MMRCA project, where the French fighter had emerged the winner after beating the Eurofighter Typhoon, American F-16 and F/A-18, Swedish Gripen and Russian miG-35.
While the current procurement is for only 36 Rafales, less than one-third of the 126 envisaged under the MMRCA project, the new contract will have the mandatory clause for acquisition of another 18 jets under the 50% follow-on order option at the same price.
The number of aircraft in the IAF has been decreasing from the late 1990s due to retirement of older MIG aircraft and several crashes. To deal with the depletion of force levels, the IAF is desperate to modernize its fleet.
This includes both the upgrade of existing aircraft, equipment and infrastructure as well as induction of new aircraft and equipment, both indigenous and imported.
The reduction in the number of Rafale jets should be seen as boon and not as a bane, it means that India is finally relying on domestically developing technology rather than importing.
India is the one of the largest importers of defense equipment in the world, which means that India ends up paying more to other nations and get sub-standard technology because no nation would import their latest and greatest.
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