On paper the Indian Air Force has roughly 700 fighter and strike jets, but in reality slightly only about half are operational raising concern about how effective the military of the 2nd largest population in the world is being protected.
The average aircraft availability measured over the entire year is about 50 to 55 percent, Defence officials have admitted towards the parliamentary committee on defence matters. About 20 percent of those jets are simply grounded because of the lack of spare parts, but Indian Air Force sources say that concerns mostly the older Soviet-era jets like the approx. 120 MiG-21 Bisons, 80 MiG-27 Bahadurs and 130 to 135 SEPECAT Shamshers (Jaguars).
The government watchdog authority also slashed the reputation of the Air Force’s three Ilyushin/Beriev A-50 AWACS aircraft. Lack of trained aircrew, lack of bases to operate from, lack of funds and resources for the aircraft maintenance have seriously hampered the effectiveness of the airborne radar and intelligence gathering platforms.
A new and possibly final chapter has been added to the tale of India and the Dassault Rafale. According to numerous reports on Monday 28 December, the deal for 36 Rafales agreed earlier in 2015 is to be finally signed during a visit by French president Francois Hollande to India on 25 January 2016. If true, it would mean the end of years and years of struggling for Dassault in India.
India in April decided it wants to buy 36 Rafales in a quest that was originally supposed to be for no less than 126 aircraft. Both parties have since been in talks over costs, technology transfer and French return investments in India. The deal is worth an estimated 9 billion EUR.
Meanwhile, Dassault in December said it received the first down payment for 24 Rafales for Qatar. That contract was put in ink in May already. If it’s anything to go by: on that occassion, president Hollande visited Qatar for the signing.
After 21 years and 279 aircraft procuded, the curtain falls for Boeing C-17 Globemaster III production in Long Beach, California. The final C-17 left the production facility on Sunday 29 November on it’s way to another Boeing facility in Texas in preparation for delivery to the Qatar Emiri Air Force next year.
Qatar is one of nine operators of the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, the military transport aircraft that first flew on 15 September 1991 from Long Beach. The US Air Force is the largest operator by far, taking 223 aircraft. The last USAF-delivery took place in 2013.
Over the last decade, India quickly became the second largest operator, counting 10 Globemaster. Australia and the UK both operate eight aircraft. Other operators are Canada, NATO, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Along with the UAE, Qatar was one of the operators to snatch up some of the last Globemasters remaining for sale. Ahead of closing down production, Boeing decided to produce a dozen or so ‘white-tail’ C-17s; aircraft with no formal customer. Other countries to take some of these aircraft were India, Australia and Canada.
As reported here on Airheadsfly.com earlier this month, the future of the Mk2 version of the Indian Tejas indigenous fighter jet is uncertain. And on Monday 19 October it became even more uncertain as the Indian Navy reported it is reviewing the Mk2’s development.
The Indian Air Force has basically already stated it is planning for 120 Tejas fighters in its current development state and incorporating a number of structural design changes. A new Mk2 version with a more GE F-414 engine and air-to-air refueling capability is off the table as far as the air force goes.
That decision leaves the Indian Navy on its own for the Mk2 version. The added power is welcome bonus for operations aboard an aircraft carrier, but the Navy is now ‘reviewing’ the Mk2 version also. The first Mk2 originally was planned to fly in two years from now, but that – if it ever flies – seems highly unlikely now.
The Indian Air Force has a need for 120 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to equip six squadrons, air force chief Arup Raha said on 3 October. An equal number of ‘Rafale-type’ fighter jets should ideally complement the Tejans. The outlook for the Tejan MkII – a futher development of the indigenous fighter jet – seems uncertain.
The Indian Air Force is currently working up to Final Operational Clearance (FOC) for a dozen or so of Tejan jets. FOC was originally set for the end of 2015 but should now should be achieved by March 2016
The Tejan has been in development for over 30 years and it still a troubled design. Manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has suggested four major design changes. Indian Air Force says it would like to acquire 120 jets if those changes are made. The order total now stands at 40.