SP Guide Publications puts forth a well compiled articulation of issues, pursuits and accomplishments of the Indian Army, over the years

— General Manoj Pande, Indian Army Chief

I am confident that SP Guide Publications would continue to inform, inspire and influence.

— Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Indian Navy Chief

My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

— Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Indian Air Force Chief

Time is of the Essence

Issue: 04-2009By Air Marshal (Retd) V.K. Bhatia

Steady decline in the IAF’s jet fighter squadrons—plus the possibility of the Indo-Russian project for the development of a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft becoming reality by 2015—makes it imperative for the long-winded process to gather speed.

Accentuating and aggravating the yawning gap in the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) combat squadron strength, the MiG-23 era came to an end when a MiG-23BN belonging to No. 221 squadron took to the skies for one last time on March 6. Subsequent winding down and temporary numberplating of No. 221 squadron has depleted the number of jet fighter squadrons from 39.5 to a figure feared to be hovering at around 30 squadrons.

The steady decline in jet fighter squadrons caused by the retirement of the earlier Mig-21 series and the entire fleet of MiG-23 aircraft has prompted the IAF to desperately try and raise additional squadrons of Su-30 MKI aircraft to fill the void. But with the outages far outstripping the inductions, the force is fighting a grim and somewhat losing battle in trying to maintain its combat capability.


As far back as in 2001, anticipating this very grim situation and with the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) nowhere on the horizon, Air HQ had initiated a case to induct six squadrons of combat aircraft (total 126 aircraft) to replace some of its superannuating MiG series aircraft and thus bridge the capability gap. As replacement, the IAF at that time was targeting a lightweight Fourth Generation combat aircraft, around 15 to 20 tonnes in weight and capable of both air defence and ground attack roles—described as Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). In fact, all modern combat aircraft are designed and equipped to perform both roles with more or less equal effectiveness.

In the then prevailing environment and given the choice, the IAF would most probably have opted for six squadrons of Dassault Mirage 2000-5, a derivative of the Mirage 2000 which had served the IAF so well, during peace and war. However, the option for procurement from a single vendor was not easily available under the procurement procedure stipulated by the government and therefore, was not exercised.