IAF Begins Brutal Rejig Of Purchase Priorities. Expect Blood.

Get the feeling that India’s ‘Make in India’ fighter project(s) have gone cold over the last two months? Well, for one thing, you’re not alone. For another, you’re right — it definitely feels like they’re on the proverbial backburner. And there are good reasons. We begin the first of this week’s special two-part deep dive on the Indian Air Force’s Make In India fighter projects by bringing to you a breakdown distilled from a range of conversations over two weeks with several officers leading the acquisitions and plans processes at the IAF and Ministry of Defence.

  1. As we speak, a quiet, hard-nosed process is on at the Indian Air Force Headquarters. Budget constraints are nothing new to the IAF. But under its present chief, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, the acquisitions and plans wing is conducting a no-nonsense re-ordering of acquisition priorities that will, in the words of a senior officer, ‘see many projects quietly disappear into thin air’. This is almost certainly going to mean blood for high value acquisitions that can be reasonably put off or cancelled.
  2. There’s no doubt that fighter acquisitions remain a top priority for the IAF, and the current priority shake-up won’t likely kill any pipeline plans. However, the IAF will almost definitely prioritise funds to add more fighter numbers quickly to the force. This could manifest in a series of ways: (a) A reconfiguration of the Make In India foreign fighter projects to include a definite number of quickly deliverable flyaway units, (b) Fast-tracking the addition of Rafale orders beyond the 36 on contract. As Livefist has reported, the Strategic Partnership policy is the key enabler for forward movement on the single-engine fighter programme. While the details have been finalised, the true contours of the project will only really fall into place once the policy is promulgated in full.
  3. By all accounts, the departure of erstwhile Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has come as more than just a speedbreaker in proceedings that require a heavy political foot on the gas pedal at all times. There is no reason to believe that Parrikar’s successor Arun Jaitley won’t shepherd plans onward. But there’s no doubt in the minds of officers on the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the MoD bureaucracy or at the very top of the IAF, that precious impetus has been abruptly lost with the exit of Parrikar, a rare intangible commodity that must now be rebuilt from scratch.
  4. Livefist has learnt that in the weeks and months ahead, a far more realistic acquisition ethic is to become apparent from the Indian Air Force’s requirements wing. The re-ordering of modernisation priorities mentioned above will produce a new list that expunges several declared ‘big ticket’ acquisition plans. Top sources indicate that a clinical pruning (or ‘rationalisation’) of the IAF’s surface-to-air missile requirement, for instance, could be chief among this series of moves.
  5. The Indo-Russian FGFA programme appears to be inching its way out of years of a troubling stall. A 5-member Indian committee tasked with identifying and defining what’s in it for India is all set to submit its report to the MoD in a week. In the meantime, reports suggest the two sides are set to conclude a ‘milestone’ design agreement on the FGFA/PMF. While the IAF’s interest in the FGFA remains, Livefist can confirm that the IAF has, at the behest of the erstwhile Parrikar-led MoD, wargamed an acquisitions scenario that envisages the total collapse of discussions with Moscow.
  6. The Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP), a tri-service capability roadmap and wishlist produced by the Indian MoD under minister A.K. Antony in 2012-2013 has been an exercise in waste. Top sources say it is no longer even a broad, tentative touchstone for modernisation at any level. Unprioritised and without any committed budgetary support, it remains a sumptuous compilation of presentations with literally no concrete actionable elements to guide force additions.
  7. Under Parrikar, the Indian military were able to arrive at the most specific definition of what they needed to be prepared for in all circumstances: ten days of intense operations on any front and across dimensions. All plans, ammunition levels and reserves need to revolve around this. The benchmark was revisited recently at the Air Force Commanders’ Conference. Apart from aircraft both fixed wing and rotary, acquisition priorities include ammunition and ordnance across mission profiles and equipment for the IAF’s small Special Forces units.

Tomorow, Part II: GRIPEN vs F-16 – The Definitive Indian Dogfight

11 thoughts on “IAF Begins Brutal Rejig Of Purchase Priorities. Expect Blood.”

  1. If i were to take a decision, I would do the following:

    Augument fighter strength by adding to existing types by increasing rafael order to 36 more and add Mig 31 as a continuation of mig 29 lineage, add sparepart and maintenance contract for IN and IAF

    Bring in accountability for SU30MKI and push for much better availability, create spare part pool with ready to install components like full engines and aux units (always in stock)

    Place light fighters not yet in IAF like HAL/BAE armed hawk so in case of conflict, MRCA are not called in for slow mountain pass attacks, freeing up assets and increasing effecting combat capability but still reducing costs. this also helps pilots in their graduation program, one more ladder is one better career path to retain pilots.

    Pump up lca production, install assembly line for aircraft that promises best export and exchange earning potential like F16 maybe. Just the business will make sense if not addition to fleet, quickly add 100 such fighters as they are proven reliable and still deadly.

    keep developing one light and one stealth medium fighter to secure the future

  2. Don’t all 6 points make the same point? Parrikar, parrikar, parrikar, parrikar and lastly parrikar. Reader is no wiser at the end.

  3. Dear Shiv,
    When are you coming with details on the Nuclear Submarine Project. Unfortunately over the past two years there had been hardly any news on that front.

  4. SuchindranathAiyerS

    Hopefully, appeasement imports like VIP transporters and DRDO projects like LCA will finally bite the dust in favour of real teeth.

  5. I hope sure do have atleast 150 Su-30 capable of carrying Brahmos. 40 is too less.
    Our firepower to support ground troops will increase tremendously with introduction of rudra and LCH.
    So have a re look at the number of strike aircraft.

  6. Gold plated Imported Air Farce (for flyby displays) with RIP Marut & LCA written all over again !!!
    Dallals laughing all the way to Swiss bank and BJP’s 2019 election funding completely assured !
    And we will continue to fight with what we have ! Awesome !!

  7. Huh ? What’s new in this ? “We’ll buy uber-expensive foreign planes even if we have to cut our innards!”. And, “We’ll buy Russian FGFA because Russia was once a friend in its earlier avatar, 30 years ago.”

    I mean come on, why don’t we ever hear, “We’ll partner with the DRDO to get the final certification for Tejas by this year, even if it means cutting other crucial expenses.” Or, “We’ll mediate between the private sector and DRDO to get the Tejas Mk.2 in the air ASAP! Book all meetings with CII and FICCI.”

    But alas! The IAF stands for Imported Air Force. And true to their word, they’re taking the easy way out even this time. All this cost-wost cutting and “blood spilling” is just a smokescreen.

  8. Good Move on part of IAF!! Get 200 nos. of Grippen-NG/E’s on Make in India and increase orders for Rafale F4’s to 90 nos. Then Push HAL for 300 nos. of MK2 Tejas and another 126 nos. of MK1A’s and IAF will be good until 2040 Year when FGFA and AMCA will start entering squadron services…

  9. Let me guess what this IAF rejig is. Our great air marshals will ask for more imported fighter planes, sneer at the Tejas or anything local while appearing on TV shows and ask for more great improvements in spending. Nothing will change.

  10. Pookat hard nosed bump up of IAF’s combat jet numbers. Current 36 Rafael will be delivered in 2021 only and anything further will be by 2025-27 – a good 8 to 10 years away 83 LCA Tejas and we are looking at F-16 / Gripen . That makes it 2 LCAs . Then Rafael, Mig 29, /35. Mirage 2000, Jaguar , Mig 27 – How many MCAs types??? HCA – Su-30 MKI and what else ? Will Russia arm twist us on Pak FA 50 ? Again by 2025 -27 ???

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