Context: The Indian Air Force is trying to keep up its strength of fighter squadrons as its fleet struggles with the gradual phase-out of existing jets as well as delays in the order and procurement of new jets. It is also placing much hope in indigenously manufactured aircraft.
The Present and Future of India’s fighter jets
- Against the sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons, the Air Force has 31 squadrons.
- Out of the 31 squadrons at present, the three Mig-21 squadrons will be phased by 2025.
- MIG-29s, inducted in the late 1980s, will start going out by the early 2040s.
- India has an ambitious plan lined up for the acquisition of over 500 fighter jets.
How many aircraft are in Squadron?
- Squadrons typically include between 12 and 24 aircraft, depending on the type of aircraft and the branch of the military.
- Land-based squadrons with heavy aircraft may have around 12 aircraft in a squadron. However, fighter units may have 18 to 24 aircraft.
Indigenous fighter ecosystem
- IAF is supposed to get the 40 LCA from HAL,
- Defence Ministry signed a deal with HAL for 83 LCA-MK1A, the first three aircraft in 2024 and 16 aircraft per year for the subsequent five years.
- A more capable and larger LCA-MK2, which received sanction from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in September 2022, is expected to be ready for production by 2027.
- There is also a Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) on the drawing board for the Navy’s aircraft carriers.
- Navy Chief said that they may get up to 45 TEDBF by 2040 from HAL.
- MRFA is a reincarnation of the earlier Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contest for 126 jets to be produced in India by a French company.
Characteristics of LCA
- A light combat aircraft (LCA) is a light, multirole jet/turboprop military aircraft.
- They are typically slower than larger multirole or strike aircraft such as the American F-18, F-15E Strike Eagle, or Russian MiG-29.
- Most light combat aircraft are capable only of subsonic speeds, although some are capable of reaching Mach 1+.
- An LCA will typically be equipped with bombs, gun pods, or short-range air-to-air missiles used for COIN or CAS missions.
- Some aircraft integrate more advanced armaments such as smart bombs, air-to-ground missiles, ECM pods (Electronic Countermeasures), and electronic targeting systems.
- These aircraft are usually used for self-defence or anti-hostile aircraft/helicopter missions, not for air-defence missions typically carried out by lightweight fighters.
- Some LCAs are capable of air-to-air combat or point air defence missions if equipped with multi-mode radar systems. the majority cannot perform these missions due to their small design and limited capabilities.
- LCAs are often used to patrol the skies and implement border patrol or air policing.
Characteristics of Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF)
- The HAL Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) is a canard delta wing, twin-engine, carrier-based, multirole combat aircraft.
- The TEDBF is being designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and will be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
- The TEDBF is intended to perform a multitude of missions, including air supremacy, air interdiction, anti-access/area denial (A2/AD), anti-ship warfare (ASW) and electronic warfare (EW) missions.
- The TEDBF is expected to replace the Mikoyan MiG-29K onboard the INS Vikramaditya and the INS Vikrant.
- The first flight is expected to be in 2026 with production planned for 2031.
- The design’s twin engines are expected to allow shorter take-offs from the Indian Navy’s Short Take-Off Barrier Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) aircraft carriers.
- As a dedicated deck-based fighter, it will feature foldable wings for more compact storage. The TEDBF will predominantly be equipped with indigenous weapons systems.