LCA Mk2 vs AMCA : After months of anticipation and the recent controversy over the Indian Air Force’s ambiguous stance, the announcement that roughly six squadrons, or 108 jets, will be purchased and that additional orders may be considered in the future finally clears the air surrounding the programme.
The IAF was considering purchasing 12 squadrons, or 212 LCA Mk2s, in 2018, however with the program’s formal funding still pending, that number will have dropped to roughly half by 2022. A programme that started as a re-engine programme has transformed into a full fledged programme for a medium class fighter jet that has evolved from 2017 onwards even until 2020. HAL has started work on the assembly of the first LCA Mk2 that came from the full scale engineering development phase, using 2/3rd of funds that were originally designated for F-414 engine equipped Tejas Mk1 airframe.
To avoid delaying the programme or having any negative effects, HAL needs money to produce three more LCA Mk2 jets that will be utilised for developmental and weapons testing. The money for this development must be granted. Even though the AMCA programme hasn’t received finances in full yet, it has at least received seed money for its design and development, in contrast to the LCA Mk2 programme, which was never funded and whatever money was left over from the LCA Mk1 programme.
Limiting LCA Mk2 orders to just 7 squadrons seems to be a calculated move to give the AMCA programme a chance and to see if additional squadrons can be accommodated instead of the LCA Mk2 jets. However, it will be nearly impossible to compare LCA Mk2 and AMCA in terms of procurement and operational cost, and at best IAF will have funds, only for 1-2 additional squadrons. The IAF has committed to purchasing 7 squadrons of AMCA jets, and it will
To cover the void left by the Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 fleet starting in 2030, the LCA Mk2 is crucial, and funding for the programme must be provided to the developers so that it may be produced at the appropriate moment and have the power to make or break the IAF’s modernization plans.