28 July, 2021

Leapfrog? Just A Chimera Chase

A reworked bid gifts India the prospect of owning 110 medium-role combat aircraft. Nevertheless, the IAF may be down to 15 squadrons by 2032.

Leapfrog? Just A Chimera Chase

So, two decades after the Indian Air Force (IAF) projected a requirement for 126 medium-role combat aircraft (MRCA), we are back to the starting point. That journey had ended abruptly in 2012 when the government, after a laboured process, selected the Dassault Rafale and began negotiations for the purchase—only to have the succeeding Nar­endra Modi administration scrap the deal and dec­ide in 2014 to purchase only 36 Rafales off the shelf.

Last week, the IAF issued a request for information (RFI) for the purchase of 110 MRCA. Three-fourth of these will be single-­seaters and the balance twin-seat aircraft. Eighteen or so of the aircraft would be bought off the shelf. The rest would be ‘Made in India’ through a partnership between the manufacturer and a strategic partner. The fighters would add six squadrons to the IAF; the order could be worth between $9 billion and 15 billion.

It is no secret that the IAF is in dire straits, both because of its declining numbers and the government’s refusal to raise the defence budget. The...

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