Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Need to restructure indigenous fighter programme

It’s the innermost desire of 1.3 billion souls of India, me too included obviously: How to transform the Indian Air Force (IAF) from “Imported Air Force” (IAF) to “Indigenised Air Force” (IAF)? This write-up is an attempt to suggest “ways forward” by an interested and concerned citizen. I, therefore, would focus on “Made in India” fighter aircraft for the IAF because traditionally, that’s the main concern and core area, owing to technology, price, maintenance, logistics and upgrade during its prescribed shelf-life and beyond. How to proceed then to an issue which hasn’t yet been satisfactorily resolved by the State? Are 72 years not long enough for India to be self-reliant in combat aircraft production for its own air warriors?

To be fair, India started well and was in a position of advantage. Being under British, close to two centuries, had its minus points but Indians also benefitted in use of modern military hardware, which were of British-origin. Fighting ships to fighter aircraft, which enabled Indian sailors, soldiers and subalterns to gain experience and become experts in usage, upkeep and upgrade.

Thus, post-1947, the IAF had the fortune of using front line combat aircraft like English Electric Canberra photo reconnaissance bomber, de Havilland Vampire and Hawker Hunter fighter and French Ouragan and Mystere craft. India also initiated manufacture of single-engine Gnat and twin-engine Marut fighters with imported technology and participation of eminent German technologist. For some time, India’s indigenisation enterprise did appear promising and impressive. Nevertheless, it was short-lived as Indians couldn’t capitalise on available Western technology and improve upon it. Things thus went downhill, only to revive in 1983 in the form of light combat aircraft (LCA), the new avatar of which is today’s Tejas multi-role fighter.
08/10/19 Abhijit Bhattacharyya/Pioneer
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