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A 30 + Squadron IAF For Some Time to Come

As the IAF inducts the second squadron of Tejas Mark 1, here is a look at the possible profile of the Indian Air Force in the coming decade.

As per Flight International World Air Forces 2019, Indian Air Force (IAF) fields 694 combat aircraft which also include of MiG 21 and MiG 27 which have been partially de-inducted or de-inducted respectively by the IAF.

Today the IAF fields about 30 active combat fighter squadrons which would make for about 600 active fighters.

Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria in an interview with Rajat Pandit of the Times of India recently stated that the IAF will have 40 LCA Tejas Mark 1, 83 Tejas Mark 1-A or a total of 123 as planned of the indigenous fighter that is about 7 Squadrons, 5-6 of which would be effective given that these also will include the Mark 1, Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) versions.

The first LCA Mark 1A aircraft is likely to be produced by 2023. Thereafter 16 aircraft per year will be delivered thereby completing full delivery in five years or by 2028.

In addition, the IAF is expected to induct six squadrons of Tejas Mark II and six squadrons of Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) which has a development time frame of 15 years and would be available possibly by 2035.

The IAF is inducting 36 Rafale four of which will be in India by July this year. 36 fighters will be delivered by 2023.

The Strategic Partnership project for 114 Multi Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) is also on stream as per the Air Chief and the project is under consideration. Competitive bidding by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Eurofighter, Russian United Aircraft Corporation and Saab is expected with Indian partners.

The recent increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit of 75 per cent by foreign companies may provide a boost to participation by companies as Lockheed Martin of the USA with the F 21, Dassault Aviation of France with the Rafale and Saab with Gripen along with the Russian MiG and the second US competitor Boeing.

The IAF is also planning to induct two squadrons of MiG 29 [21 aircraft] after being de-mothballed and additional orders of two squadrons of Su 30 MKI [18] should partially make up the numbers as a short-term measure.

Add on orders for 36 Rafale could also be in the offing in case the 114 MRFA project is delayed as the first fighter could only role out from a factor that would be set up in India by 2028-2030.

With the IAF deinducting the MiG 21 fully by 2023-24 which will be followed by the Jaguar with plans for upgrading having been shelved, the squadron strength will continue to hover around 30 plus in the coming decade.


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