In terms of aircraft, the IAF is anticipating the AMCA, the Tejas MK1A, as well as the Tejas Mark-II in a few years. The 114 MRFA case is also moving forward nicely. This would not only bolster the Air Force but also provide the Indian aviation sector a major boost.
IAF Chief Chaudhari stated, “We have already committed for seven squadrons of AMCA, when asked how many aircraft the Air Force plans to induct. We will decide on the amount of the TEJAS MK-II as soon as the first production model is released and we begin introducing the aircraft into the Air Force. If necessary, we can always increase the number based on the aircraft’s performance and rate of introduction.
In addition to the 123 LCA Mk1 and Mk1A order and the IAF tender for 114 Multi Role Fighter Aircraft MRFA with 7 squadrons for the upcoming AMCA programme, the IAF’s commitment to 201 LCA Mk-II earlier could have meant the addition of nearly 550 jets in the next 20 years of fleet modernization programme. However, the IAF’s lack of commitment to LCA Mk-II means that the IAF won’t be able to build up to its sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons in next 10 to 15 years.
The MRFA tender itself will take another 3 years before the contract is signed, and it might take another 6-7 years before the IAF gets its planes, not before the middle of the 2030s. The AMCA programme is still in the design and development phase and will take a long time to mature.
Although the LCA Mk2 rollout has been scheduled for later this year, it appears that LCA Mk2 has been doomed to failure from the start because no funding has been allocated for the manufacture of the final three prototypes needed to finish its developmental phase.
With such announcements, no private sector businesses might be eager to be a part of the LCA Mk2 programme and may focus on the AMCA programme, which was intended to be a bridge between LCA Mk1A and AMCA and might have supported innovation and growth in the industry.
The LCA Mk2 was initially expected to replace the IAF’s current fleet of Mirage 2000, Jaguar, and Mig-29 aircraft starting in 2035; however, the IAF’s lack of commitment will leave a considerably larger gap over who will be replacing these aircraft given that the most of them are close to 40 years old.