IAF closes doors for foreign 5th generation fighter, commits itself to Indian AMCA

No plan for additional 36 Rafales; HAL's HTT-40 to be next trainer, discloses new Air Chief

October 4, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Illustration(s): By Aeronautical Development Agency
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria's unequivocal support for AMCA is in line with the Make in India agenda

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is not considering any Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft other than the indigenous AMCA, the new Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria declared at a press conference on October 4 in New Delhi, categorically ruling out any import.

"AMCA will be given priority. We will give full support. No import (of a fifth generation fighter) has been planned in the foreseeable future. AMCA will take a lot of budgetary support..Technology and weapons are the underlying requirements," he elaborated. Russia, the US and Britain have pitched their Fifth and 'Sixth' generation fighters to India. The AMCA assertion fits in with the vision that all military platforms to be acquired after the conclusion of ongoing procurement will be designed, developed and produced in India.

The AMCA assertion fits in with the vision that all military platforms to be acquired after the conclusion of ongoing procurement will be designed, developed and produced in India.

He also made the significant disclosures that the IAF had not made any case for the acquisition of an additional 36 Rafale fighters, and that no decision had been made so far to acquire MBDA's ASRAAM as the standardised short-range air-to-air missile across the fighter fleet. The indigenous Astra Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile which will be standardised weapon across multiple fighter types.

"There's a plan for (acquiring) 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft. There's no separate plan for an additional 36 Rafale fighters," the Air Chief said. On the ASRAAM, he clarified: "ASRAAMs are for the Jaguars. We have not yet decided whether these will be acquired for others."

"There's a plan for (acquiring) 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft. There's no separate plan for an additional 36 Rafale fighters," the Air Chief said. On the ASRAAM, he clarified: "ASRAAMs are for the Jaguars. We have not yet decided whether these will be acquired for others."

Amidst a string of announcements, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria also declared that HAL's under-development HTT-40 will be the IAF's new first stage trainer, and that the earlier plan for a follow-on order for 38 Pilatus PC-7 trainers had been dropped. "The next trainer will be the HTT-40. It has done some spin trials. But we can't move to the next stage (to action procurement) until the tests are over, till the Final Operational Clearance," he qualified.

The tender for 6 new mid-air refuellers has been withdrawn, and a fresh procurement process will be initiated soon with the issuance of an RFI. "We're back to square one," he shrugged.

"The LCA contract negotiations are not complete. There were discrepencies in the price quoted by HAL. We're close to finalising it (the contract). It's a priority, and should happen soon," the Chief added

The Air Chief confirmed that 12 additional Su-30MKI fighters and 21 retrofitted MiG-29s are being acquired, and that the case for a weapon and radar upgrade for the Sukhoi fighter fleet has been initiated. A decision will be taken later on whether to seek replacements for the first lot of IAF Su-30MKIs fighters, the phase-out schedule for which begins in 2025, he said.

He also confirmed that the contract for 83 Light Combat Aircraft is very close to signing, and that the delivery of the first lot of Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configuration LCAs will commence in the next five months. "The LCA contract negotiations are not complete. There were discrepencies in the price quoted by HAL. We're close to finalising it (the contract). It's a priority, and should happen soon," the Chief added.

Responding to a question by SP's Aviation on lessons learnt from the drone attack which crippled the biggest oil refinery in Saudi Arabia and whether this represented the future of asymmetric warfare, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria revealed that such warfare has been anticipated by the IAF in the past, and procurements made to handle such attacks. "Fresh procurement of sensors has been initiated after the drone attack in Saudi Arabia," he disclosed

Emergency procurements were made post the Balakot air strikes to make up the shortfall in air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground precision weapons, besides building up stocks of spares to ensure high serviceability of aircraft during the stand-off with Pakistan.

Upgrade of the perimeter security at the frontline Pathankot airbase - which was attacked by terrorists in January 2016 - will be completed by the end of this year, and subsequently replicated at critical airbases thereafter.

Marking the end of an era, all non-Bison MiG-21s will be phased out by March 2020. The MiG-21 Bison variants - an estimated 6 squadrons - will continue to fly till the end of their residual service life.

Responding to a question by SP's Aviation on lessons learnt from the drone attack which crippled the biggest oil refinery in Saudi Arabia and whether this represented the future of asymmetric warfare, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria revealed that such warfare has been anticipated by the IAF in the past, and procurements made to handle such attacks. "Fresh procurement of sensors has been initiated after the drone attack in Saudi Arabia," he disclosed.