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Five steps to a viable air force

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by Agent_47, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. Agent_47

    Agent_47 Admin - Blog Staff Member MODERATOR

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    Air Force Day, celebrated on October 8 each year, provides occasion to revisit the IAF’s biggest worry – it’s declining squadron numbers – and to examine how this could be reversed within its budget. Military planners estimate the IAF needs 42 fighter squadrons to tackle a two-front threat from Pakistan and China. Against this, the air force has just 33 squadrons, including 10 squadrons of obsolescent MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighters overdue for retirement. True, new Tejas and Sukhoi-30MKI fighters are rolling off the lines, but not quickly enough to replace the retiring MiGs, leave alone increasing the number of squadrons.

    Each fighter squadron should have 21 aircraft, including 16 single-seat fighters, two twin-seat trainers (which would fly combat sorties in wartime) and three aircraft as maintenance reserves. The IAF has about 600 fighters, and calculating at 21 fighters per squadron, this adds up to just 29 squadrons. That means many of the IAF’s 33 squadrons operate with fewer fighters than the 21 authorised.

    So why is the air force not allocated more money to quickly buy more fighters? A look at the chart (below) shows the IAF has already been allocated the lion’s share of the capital budget – which pays for new equipment. Additional capital allocations are possible only by raising defence spending (at the politically costly expense of social sector spending and infrastructure creation), or at the expense of the army or navy. The army, despite its massive size and urgent need for artillery guns, infantry equipment and air defence weaponry gets less than a third of the capital budget. Reducing it is impossible. The navy, which plays a growing role in the Indian Ocean, is as short of warships as the air force is of fighters and cannot countenance its modernisation budget falling below the present 25 per cent.

    Screenshot (12).png

    The answer, obviously, is for the IAF to spend more judiciously. Its misguided quest to own all flying machines, including attack helicopters that fight the land battle and should rightly belong to the army, has resulted in the IAF spending some $2 billion on 22 Apache attack helicopters – money that could have gone out of the army’s coffers. The IAF must also balance between, on the one hand, buying pricey, cutting-edge fighters like the Rafale that it can afford only in small numbers; and, on the other hand, acquiring inexpensive workhorses that provide the numbers needed to cover India’s vast airspace. While fighter pilots must not be sent into combat in inferior aircraft, an obsessive quest for outright combat superiority will leave an air force short of numbers. A telling example is the IAF’s Rafale purchase, where exorbitant cost (Rs 686 crore per aircraft, Rs 58,000 crore for the deal with add-ons) has left the IAF with just 36 fighters instead of the 126 that were tendered. Everyone disregarded Stalin’s dictum: “Quantity has a quality of its own.”

    Building up quantity, without sacrificing quality, requires the IAF to progress on five simultaneous tracks. The air force chief recently stated, without elaborating, that by the IAF’s centenary in 2032, its squadron strength would reach authorised levels. In a country where even annual plans are seldom met, this projection is so far into the future as to be practically meaningless. The IAF must clearly elaborate how it will meet its targets, and lay down mid-course milestones for 2025. To stimulate this process, here is a five-point road map.

    Screenshot (13).png
    Screenshot (14).png


    First, the IAF must expedite the long-postponed proposal to upgrade at least four of its six Jaguar ground strike squadrons with more powerful engines, DARIN-3 navigation-attack avionics, airborne electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and capable air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry. Along with three Mirage 2000 and three MiG-29 squadrons already being upgraded, this would keep 10 squadrons of capable (though not cutting-edge) fighters flying for another 15 years till 2032. The upgraded Jaguars could serve some years beyond that.

    Second, the IAF must whole-heartedly support indigenous fighter development: specifically the Tejas Mark 1A, followed by the eponymous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) – a twin-engine, stealthy, fifth-generation fighter. The IAF has initiated the acquisition of 84 Tejas Mark 1A fighters (four squadrons). This will have four improvements over the initial Tejas – AESA radar for added combat capability; air-to-air refuelling to increase combat range; an externally-mounted “self-protection jammer” (SPJ) to blind enemy radars, and tidier internal systems to increase maintainability and reduce “turnaround time”, i.e. how quickly a refuelled and rearmed Tejas can leave on a fresh mission after returning from an earlier one. Improving the Tejas incrementally could give the 2032 fleet eight Tejas squadrons.

    Simultaneously, the IAF must strongly support the indigenous AMCA. Having a fully-developed and flight-tested AMCA by 2032 is vital for replacing the upgraded MiG-29s and Mirage 2000s that begin retiring that year, followed by the Jaguar. Expediting the conclusion of a contract to build a single-engine fighter in India with foreign collaboration would benefit the AMCA by galvanising an indigenous aerospace eco-system. It would also add six (or more) squadrons to the IAF by 2032.

    Third, the IAF must drive the contract for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to partner Sukhoi in co-developing and manufacturing the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). This heavy fighter would replace the Sukhoi-30MKI, when that IAF workhorse ages. In July, a defence ministry Expert Committee ruled that the technological expertise Indian engineers would gain from working with Russian experts would also feed positively into the AMCA project. HAL chief, T Suvarna Raju says if India acted quickly, HAL would get to co-design the heart of the FGFA’s combat systems– including navigation systems, radars and weapon aiming devices. This would translate into the ability to upgrade the FGFA mid-way through its life cycle. Further, the FGFA co-development is incredibly cost effective –India will pay just $3.1 billion. There is no reason to delay this project.

    Fourth, paradoxically, considering that buying the Rafale was a financial blunder, the IAF must now procure two more squadrons. The Rafale will be the IAF’s eighth fighter type when it joins (sixth if one discounts the MiG-21 and MiG-27 on their way out), and it makes little sense to create basing and maintenance infrastructure for just two Rafale squadrons.

    Fifth and finally, the IAF must focus on acquiring and indigenously developing force multipliers, especially aerial tankers (unforgivably stuck for years in the defence ministry pipeline); airborne warning and control systems to maximize usage of existing combat assets; and satellite-based data links to greatly enhance airspace awareness and weapon-targeting capabilities of the fighter fleet.

    The challenge is as clear as the opportunities. Can the IAF and defence ministry get their acts together?

    http://ajaishukla.blogspot.in/2017/10/five-steps-to-viable-air-force.html
     
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  2. Agent_47

    Agent_47 Admin - Blog Staff Member MODERATOR

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  3. Ankit Kumar 001

    Ankit Kumar 001 Major Technical Analyst

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    Till HAL is the sole LCA owner, there won't be any LCA MK2, any AMCA , or even any 84th MK1A.

    On the author, you see , you may buy 1000 sheep instead of 100 lions, but those 1000 sheep won't win you battles.

    The moment he says, money wasted on costly Rafale, I stopped reading
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
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  4. Lion of Rajputana

    Lion of Rajputana Captain FULL MEMBER

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    And he completely fails to account for one very vital factor: the likelihood of an Indian Rafale line (don't see the IAF being ok with just 72 TE aircraft, combining their needs with the Navy's, there's still scope for a TE MII along with the SE line).
     
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  5. sunstersun

    sunstersun Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Lotta money required for that. Basically he said buy everything.

    Only thing prudent imo is swapping the helicopters to the army.
     
  6. The enlightened

    The enlightened Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    That''s the main problem. Everyone wants everything, but there is no money. We can only barely afford what we are buying today. There are critical deficiencies in every sector, in every service of the armed forces.

    Then our rulers decide to throw all logic to the wind and expend a massive wad of cash on some dozen white elephants when what we need is in hundreds:crazy:. Look where that got us now. Cancelling MMRCA in 2014, we could have finished F-16/Shornet negotiations by now and most likely got a squadron fly-away at the same time we will get the first Rafale with a production line being set-up soon after. Instead we will likely be getting us 4th generation SE MII when the rest of the world starts flying 6th generation fighters
    :frust:
     
  7. stephen cohen

    stephen cohen Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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  8. randomradio

    randomradio Mod Staff Member MODERATOR

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    Can someone please remind Shukla sahab that IAF has attrition also. And the fact that he has severely underestimated the numbers we actually need.

    =================
    Our only aircraft inductions after 2000 were the 13.5 squadrons of MKI and 37 Jaguars. That's 15.5 squadrons. All other aircraft we operate were inducted in the 70s and 80s. So we need to place orders for 26.5 squadrons in order to get to 42 by 2032. And counting modest attrition, we need 34.5 squadrons delivered by 2032.

    That's nearly 700 aircraft. This number is only meant to ensure parity. In 5 years, it could change.

    Out of 700 we only have orders for 159. We still have to place orders for over 500 aircraft. So we can have the initial 4-6 squadrons each for SE and TE MII, 8 squadrons for FGFA and still have well over 100 jets pending.

    And we need 57 flyaway and 100+ jet MII for IN. Independent programs.
    =================
     
  9. randomradio

    randomradio Mod Staff Member MODERATOR

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    This has been repeated many times. Mk2 is dead on arrival. Mk1A will be a better option, particularly if it's reengined with Kaveri K-9, with the Indian core.

    Even after Mk2 becomes available, it will be a downgrade compared to a Mk1A with Kaveri.
     
  10. stephen cohen

    stephen cohen Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    After Mk 1A ; AMCA is the Best option

    SE (F16 or Gripen ) programme is confirmed ; Mk 2 is unnecessary
     
  11. randomradio

    randomradio Mod Staff Member MODERATOR

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    No, the F-16/SH contract would have failed during the negotiation stage itself. We can't agree to their half-baked schemes at shoving their stuff down our throats without making the proper laws for it first. And that started only in 2016 with the MDP law.

    The best option was to continue with the initial MRCA program with M-2000, F-16 and Gripen. The M-2000 would have won and we would have had 100+ flying today.

    FGFA is a 5++ gen aircraft. Our high end requirement for the present and future is well taken care of, so is our light requirement with LCA and Jaguar, the problem is the stuff in the middle that we lack in sufficient numbers.
     
  12. randomradio

    randomradio Mod Staff Member MODERATOR

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    Most definitely. After Mk1A there is no more room for a jet of this class. The focus will shift to MMRCA class.

    This is where @vstol jockey can squeeze in though, completely upset the IAF's plans.
     
  13. vstol jockey

    vstol jockey Colonel MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    If LCAMkA actually turns out to be lighter by about 700-800 kgs, it will be a cracker of an aircraft and in that case IAF must order about 250 of them to replace Mig-21 fleet and build up number of squadrons. There will be no need for any other SE fighter including LCAMk2.
    After that we need an aircraft in the sweet spot of 18-20 tons category which is light, highly agile and can do the job of a light as well heavy fighter from forward bases and also from bases in deep interior. This aircraft shud be used to replace all other aircraft in service like Mig-27/29/M2k/Jaguar.
    The problem of designing an aircraft is such that you have a sudden jump in engine weight when you go beyond 40Kn dry thrust and sudden jump in airframe weight due to higher payload and need for bigger airframe and wingspan to support this additional weight. The ultimate design which you get is so big and needs so much of infrastructure for operations that it can't be used from forward bases.
    Like when I settled for MSA with HTFE-40 engine, The design met every aspect of what I have written but the moment I upgraded the design to 23 ton design, the empty weight jumped to 9.25 tons as I needed bigger wings with more area and span to have respectable performance w.r.t to ITR/STR, wing loading, span loading and Take off/landing speeds. I needed minimum 10.4m wing span and about 44 sqm wing area to get good performance out of the aircraft. This means going for higher thrust engines like Kaveri. To give you a small example, Kaveri is likely to weigh same as M88 which is 900 kgs and have nearly same dry thrust of 55Kn also but HTFE-40 with 40 Kn dry thrust will weigh under 600 kgs.
    There is a very clear and well defined tip over point in aircraft design and once you go beyond this tip over point, the aircraft suddenly becomes too heavy.
     
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  14. Agent_47

    Agent_47 Admin - Blog Staff Member MODERATOR

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    Attrition will be considered when its due. No point dwelling upon an unpredictable factor. You severely overestimate numbers we actually need.

    Whatever is better than importing F-16. :dude:

    Money is not the big problem here but long term planning, sqd numbers and indigenous developments (MII).
     
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  15. GuardianRED

    GuardianRED Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Pal - HAL ISN'T the Owner 0f LCA , nor the LCA Mk2 , Nor it is the owner of the AMCA!.... That will be ADA!
     

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