- Spending Rs 5,000 crore to boost Sukhoi-30 MKI serviceability would "buy" as many additional fighters as the purchase of 126 Rafales for Rs 1 lakh crore.
- The IAF's obsolescent MiG-21 and MiG-27 fleets could be replaced economically with an improved (or Mark II) version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft; its development and manufacture accelerated through a strategic alliance with Swedish company Saab, which is close to completing the Gripen E - a fighter very much like what the IAF wants the Tejas Mark II to be.
- A project like this would catalyse an entire aeronautical design and manufacturing ecosystem, especially the small and medium firms that wither away when the government buys overseas rather than innovating and producing domestically.
- Alongside this, aerospace engineering courses could be sponsored in selected technological institutes, which would feed into the indigenous design and manufacture of an advanced medium combat aircraft, a project already under way.
- Finally, with the change left over from the Rs 1 lakh crore, New Delhi could press Stockholm hard to buy out Saab's aerospace division.
Rejoinder by SP Singh:
While Shukla's patriotic fervor deserves appreciation, he somehow divorces himself from realism about the capability of our DPSUs, especially HAL. Almost 50 years in standing, it has 19 Production Units and 10 R&D Centres in 08 locations in India and employs perhaps the highest number of employees wrt any contemporary aircraft manufacturing facility on planet earth. And pray what have they given us in these fifty long years? Hyperboles of accomplishments, which truly were/are pain, pain and more pain with billions of dollars spent on foreign trips and collaborations. Some of their products that attained moderate success, courtesy the IAF, as no one else found them suitable, like HT-2,Kiran(HJT16) and HPT32,all Trainers were direct ripoffs from the Chipmunk, Jet Provost and Bulldog respectively. Among fighters the HF-24 designed by Dr Kurt Tank, a German, limped its way through in the IAF for want of a suitable engine.The others claimed to be manufactured by HAL like the MiG 21,Jaguar,Hawk and Su30 are either assembled or manufactured under license with over 75% imported components.
The much touted IJT and the LCA have been in the making for 30 years and are yet to reach anywhere near oprationalisation. While the LCA was hurriedly given op clearance by Mr Antony in December 2013, just before CAS Browne retired, as per conservative estimates it will take at least five years before it is fully ops in the IAF. The prototype IJT that flew in the Air Show at Yelahanka in 2005 crashed in 2010 and nothing has come online since then even in prototype form, when will it reach the IAF, if ever.
So that brings me to the two most disingenuous and unviable suggestions made by Shukla. Rescind the Rafale deal to save one lakh crore and do the following: (a) improve the serviceability of Su-30s to75% to get additional 95 ac online. Well said and highly wishful, but do remember all Su-30s are assembled at HAL leaving much to be desired in the finished product and costs the IAF close to Rs 500 crore besides being heavy on maintenance. In addition, 20% of the holdings go for MR&SOW. To achieve 75% serviceability of the remaining 80% , effectively 92% serviceability would need an uninterrupted continuous flow of product support, which is well nigh impossible because the IAF depends on HAL/Roseboron, who depends on foreign vendors, who never oblige.
Anyway, being ex Army Shukla will not find it hard to corroborate, as the serviceability rate of a soldiers common weapon is dismal, forget about the heavy eqpt like TANKS, BMPs and Arty Guns etc. (b), mould the LCA Mk 2 on the lines of Gripen E and acquire the Aerospace Division of SaaB for the “change” left over after operationalising the LCA Mk 2 so as to promote aviation ecology and ancillary units in India. First of all SaaB is a billion $ co with worldwide presence whose annual turnover is ten times that of HAL.So I wonder if it can be bought off with the small change. And then the product Gripen E. Saab has signed a deal on 18 Dec 2013 with Brazil to supply 36 Gripen E for USD 4.5 billion. The first ac will reach Brazil in 2019 and the last in 2023. So there is no way we could persuade them to sell their holdings for the change till 2023. SaaB is yet to integrate the AESA Radar on the Gripen , a must for modern fighters. Wonder if the HAL has even thought of this Radar for LCA Mk 2. So could HAL replicate the Gripen Model on LCA Mk 2 is anybody’s take.
Regrettably Shukla’s suggestions besides being incoherent smack of utmost ignorance on affairs Air Force, Aerospace and Air Power. If Mr Jaitely, in his wildest nightmares, were to ever implement these, he will do yeomen service to DRDO /HAL by filling their overflowing coffers with another one lakh crore – FOR NOTHING.