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India Doesn’t Require F-16s When it Has Tejas

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by layman, Mar 31, 2017.

  1. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    India Doesn’t Require F-16s When it Has Tejas
    Published March 31, 2017
    SOURCE: Bharat Karnad

    [​IMG]

    PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi’s visit to the US to meet President Donald J Trump is now on the front burner, with an emphasis on ‘deliverables’. If Delhi is keen on easing the H1B visa regime for Indian techies, Washington is eager that Modi sign up for the fourth generation F-16, a deal seen as ‘open sesame’ for endless future transactions on military hardware, and implement the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement.

    If the fourth generation F-16 is the key, what does it say about India that the BJP Government is interested in an antique American combat aircraft, optimised for air warfare of the 1970s, as a frontline fighter for the Indian Air Force well into the 21st century?

    The Lockheed F-16 and the Swedish SAAB (Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolag) JAS 39 Gripen are competing for the single-engined fighter slot in the IAF, a requirement casually conceived to fill the gap the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), earmarked to replace the large numbers of the Russian MiG-21 as the bulk combat aircraft in the Air Force, has failed to meet. It is another matter that the delays suffered by the Tejas programme can be traced mainly to machinations to derail it, including frequent changes in specifications, and the ordering of the LCA in small batches to curtail economies of scale and deter HAL and private companies from investing in multiple LCA production lines. (See my ‘The Tragedy of Tejas’, February 17th, 2017). Despite starting with negligible technology and industrial capability, the LCA is operational, has impressed as a compact, multi-role, highly agile, fly-by-wire, 4.5 generation warplane, and can even become an export revenue earner for the country.
    So, why isn’t Modi publicly hailing Tejas as a remarkable story of Indian grit, talent and technological innovation, and as a showcase for his ‘Make in India’ policy and the country’s capacity to design complex weapons systems? He should be ensuring that the IAF is invested fully in the aircraft, and that it is a runaway military and commercial success at home and abroad. Except, it turns out that, as Baba Kalyani of Bharat Forge observed at Aerospace India 2017, by ‘Make in India’ Modi probably means ‘Assemble in India’, and that too, any old piece of foreign equipment. The Prime Minister’s aim apparently is to draw American defence manufacturing companies to set up shop here, solidify India’s status as ‘major defence partner’ of the US, and use the F-16 (and possibly the Boeing F-18) to extract more ‘give’ from Trump on issues dear to him. The collateral benefits Modi espies are the firming up of the ruling party’s financial support base among NRIs in America (and the West generally), and enhancing his electoral appeal among the Indian middle-class.

    It also suggests that Modi is reconciled to America not delivering on cutting-edge technologies, or committing itself to jointly designing and developing advanced armaments, a reluctance evidenced in the US Congress rejecting NATO-partner status for India and the India-US Defence Technology & Trade Initiative being a non-starter, with only technologically obsolete weaponry phased out by the US military—the M-777 ultra-light howitzer, the aged F-16 and F-18, etcetera—being offered for licensed manufacture.

    The IAF has always liked the Gripen, the reason why Sweden jumped in with the E variant in the race against the F-16 Block 70. But both Gripen E, almost the same as the NG (New Generation) and Block 70, only another name for the ‘IN Super Viper’, had entered the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) sweepstakes, which Modi settled with his impulse purchase in April 2015 of 36 Rafales from France.

    On a comparative basis though, which of these aircraft is superior? S Paul Kapur and Sumit Ganguly, in a piece, ‘F-16s, Made in India: Second Best may be Best’ in Foreign Affairs, while acknowledging that set alongside Gripen, the F-16 is ‘second best’, nevertheless argue that the American aircraft is the better buy because the benefits to India from dealing with the US, a great power, outweigh the gains from dealing with Sweden, a fairly marginal European state. Moreover, they claim, it’s a selection that will build ‘trust’ and ‘bind the two countries together’ in the larger geopolitical contest afoot against China. Allowing the assembly of F-16s in India is not the preferred option for America either, they maintain, as Lockheed would rather have India as a ‘customer’. And, after rubbishing the Tejas as under-powered, under-performing and not induction- ready aircraft, they aver that the F-16 or even the Gripen will reverse the trend of the Air Force’s supposed depleting squadron strength. But a ‘second best’ fighter plane for India in the context of the top- of-the-line Su-30s for strike missions and MiG-29s for distant air defence in the IAF inventory makes no sense unless Delhi agrees with Washington’s assessment of the Indian military as second rate and India as Third World.

    An economic case for the F-16 was reportedly made by Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Endowment directly to Modi. Predictably, he greatly under- estimates the F-16 unit cost and lifetime costs, and exaggerates the size of the supposedly uptapped global market for 500 F-16s, and for spares for more than 3,500 of this aircraft operating worldwide. Also, his contention that the production monopoly of this aircraft immunises India against a US cutoff of critical items for the F-16, is iffy at best. But the knowledgeable Tellis can be convincing especially to an Indian audience predisposed to believe him.

    The fact though is that with the up-front payment for the transfer of the F-16 assembly line to India and for the full complement of SKD and CKD kits for aircraft assembly, there’s no incentive for Washington not to shut down the F-16 or any other supply line at will should Delhi not conform to the contingent US policy interests. In light of Trump’s ‘America First’ outlook, there’s already some backsliding with Lockheed saying that 25 per cent of the production of F-16 spares and critical assemblies would be retained at its Fort Worth plant in Texas, which could be a precursor to its deciding that continued production of this aircraft in small numbers in the US serves its interests, just so workers don’t lose jobs and Trump is kept happy. In the event, paying an awful lot of money for a vintage aircraft and, instead of facilitating the country’s entry into the global supply chain, seeing the F-16 become an albatross around India’s neck, is a real prospect.

    Then again, how does the Tejas compare with the other planes? According to the just retired LCA project chief, Commodore CD Balaji in an interview to Aeromag Asia, the LCA “is far superior to the MiG-21 in all aspects”, and “far ahead in terms of technologies and performance …to the Chinese JF-17 [flown by the Pakistan Air Force], and [is] at par with Gripen.” But which aircraft has the operational edge? In aerial warfare with Beyond Visual Range weapons, the ability to locate an adversary aircraft is of paramount importance, and here a fully loaded LCA has a lethal edge in terms of its very small radar cross section of 0.5 sq m. Relative to Gripen’s RCS of 0.7 sq m plus, and of between 3 sq m and 6 sq m for the F-16 and Rafale, the Tejas, is virtually invisible. Making the LCA stealthier still is the fact that 40 per cent of its body is made of radar-absorbing carbon composites versus 25 per cent for Gripen, and 10 per cent for F-16.

    Moreover, armed with an entirely tested and proven all-Indian designed and developed ordnance suite of the Surdarshan laser- guided bomb, Astra air-to-air radar-homing missile, and outfitted with the Uttam Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the Tejas weapons system is powerful. The weapons (like the French Meteor missile at $5 million each) carried by Gripen and Rafale, on the other hand, are all inordinately expensive and will incur very high expenditure to obtain and periodically to replenish the weapons stocks for the lifetime of the aircraft. Further, unlike Gripen E, which has yet to pull speed taxi trials, will enter Swedish service in 2020, and whose AESA radar has tested ‘unstable’, the Tejas has logged over 3,000 flying hours, successfully negotiated the most onerous flight regimes, and proven itself in war exercises in the air defence and ground attack roles.

    Notwithstanding everything in its favour, including national pride, should the Tejas be sidelined, it will perpetuate India’s status as an arms dependency and mock the country’s technological ambition. If the F-16 is chosen, it will end up reducing India to a spear-carrier for the US. Were Gripen to get the nod, then as the long-time DRDO’s resident wit, the now retired rocket engineer, V Siddhartha punned, it will be because Modi believes in ‘SAAB ke saath, SAAB ka vikaas’

    Source
     
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  2. OverLoad

    OverLoad Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Tejas is a good 4.5th Gen jet fighter and I don't think IAF should go for 3.5 or 4th gen unreliable fighter (unreliable because of moody US Govt).
    Tejas project what I believe is a victim of kickbacks and mentality of superior command because they think local products are less capable.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2017
  3. Sancho

    Sancho Lt. Colonel Technical Analyst

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    :rolleyes2:
    SOURCE: Bharat Karnad

    One of the worst Indian defence commentators. :rolleyes2:
     
  4. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    F-16 Deal would be a good business proposition... India stand to gain from being Only the Sole service endpoint for the F-16 fighters for decade.

    And He is bit hyped on Tejas so it is fine. He has his view point though may not be entirely taken into context.
     
  5. Sancho

    Sancho Lt. Colonel Technical Analyst

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    He is blind to see the shortcomings of Tejas which is the main problem, that makes most of his comments pointless.

    And I would disagree on the business point of the F16. You have to keep in mind that India would remain the sole operator of that fighter for the next 30 to 40 years. That means we have to fund most future upgrades alone and if we are not allowed to integrate key components like indigenous radar or engines, we will remain dependent on US suppliers which then can ask for high costs (we had the same issue with Russians too).

    The F16 is still very capable today and the cost / capability ratio is very good, but it's simply at the end of it's life with hardly any future potential.
     
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  6. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    F-16 Business POV, i will work it out and put forth and we can discuss based on it. But info is it is worthy of investment.
     
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  7. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    NG is in plans to move complete post-2018-19 Lockheed Martin will be shutting down its Fort Worth facility due to lack of orders for its legacy F-16 combat jet, 26 countries which currently operates F-16 how many will buy spares from India or what are its export potentials ? , Remember F-16 has second highest production run in the history of combat jets and nearly 4500 fighter jets have been built till date . There are enough surplus F-16s all around which will be brought by current operators and retired F-16s are too in plenty to be used for spares

    [​IMG]
    Loved the Picture so posted it. LOL

    A total of 2,256 F-16 airframes have been delivered - more than 50% of the total F-16 production. On top of that the US Navy and NASA operate an addition 40 and 6 aircraft respectively. Completing the top five of largest F-16 Fighting Falcon fleets are Israel (361 aircraft), Turkey (240 aircraft, with an additional 30 F-16s on order), Egypt (220), and the Netherlands (213).

    At the lower end there are a number of smaller operators, with typically less than 40 aircraft. Many of these smaller operators bought new aircraft, like Venezuala and Indonesia. However, a number of these countries have also purchased at least part of their fleet from other air forces' excess inventory. For example, the Royal Jordanian Air Force is flying a number of former Belgian F-16 aircraft, while the Aeronautica Militare Italiana is leasing retired F-16A/B ADF aircraft from the US Air Force.

    Even though most of the inventory has been delivered, four air forces still have aircraft on order. These include the Turkish Air Force (30), the Pakistan Air Force (18), the Royal Moroccon Air Force (24) and the Egyptian Air Force (20).

    Viable Business Venture may be. That is my POV.
     
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  8. Sancho

    Sancho Lt. Colonel Technical Analyst

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    Only if the countries that bought F16s pland to keep them in operations for a similar time as IAF would, but that is not the case! Most of them are phasing them out currently or considering replacements (US, Israel, Turkey, several European operators...).
    We can see the same problem with Indias Mig 29s now. We are the biggest operator and even fund upgrades, but most other countries are phasing it, which leaves us with the burden to upgrade and maintain a fighter without future potential.
     
  9. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    The count of IAF’s fighter squadrons has shrunk to 33 (a round 640 fighters) compared to a desirable strength of 42. T he squadron strength is likely to come down to a mere 19 (around 380 warplanes) by 2027.
    Total Required would be about 400 jets by 2030 before AMCA induction starts. Target IAF to produce/Deliver 123 jets by 2025, 36 Rafale fighters and 72 Sukhoi-30 fighters are on order. That leaves India about 180 Fighters to plug the gap.

    Anyways am tired of evaluating F-16's proposition and its viability. lol.
     
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  10. Sancho

    Sancho Lt. Colonel Technical Analyst

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    We need more fighters, although the squadron number issue is just a statistical one, but F16s simply don't make any sense, be it in operational terms or industrial.
     
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  11. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Say not viable other Viable options, i guess we can discuss on the other thread.
    I would still say it is Viable. Provided the it comes with no strings attached and cost effective also.
     
  12. MilSpec

    MilSpec Mod Staff Member MODERATOR

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    I will be highly surprised if any of f-teens came to India. But there exist a very real space of another aircraft within the LCA and MMRCA which can be filled by something like a Gripen/Mig35/F16. Primarily due to the payload and range limitations of the LCA.

    The only good thing working for India, might be the timing, as we have managed this gap just by ignoring it maybe, AMCA can substitute this gap when it comes along.
     
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  13. randomradio

    randomradio Mod Staff Member MODERATOR

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    The purpose of a new imported fighter is to develop a competitor to Reliance Defence through another private sector company. So LCA, AMCA won't fit the bill here. The only choice is another non-HAL, non-Russian plane.

    It is a strategy by the Modi govt to bring in two private companies as competitors in all spheres of defence. And this has to be done ASAP. Hence why this SE program is being given high priority.
     
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  14. mugundhan

    mugundhan FULL MEMBER

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    :frust::frust::frust:
     
  15. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    I guess you are breaking your heads on the source commentator. Lol
     

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