A few months back, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said that India should be prepared for two front wars. The gradual mingling of China and Pakistan could lead to breakout of wars on two fronts with our northern and western neighbor. The development of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Chinese loans to debt ridden country suggest that Pakistan is on the way to become a colony of China. So, for all practical reasons the interests of Pakistan will be interests of China in upcoming years. To prepare itself for two front wars Indian government is set to grant what could be termed as ‘mother of all defense deals’ despite the fact that jury is still out on Rafale, at least on opposition side.
The government now wants to acquire long delayed 114 new fighter jets for over $20 billion (Rs 1.4 lakh crore) to fulfill the demand of Indian Air force. According to sources, the Defense Acquisitions Council, chaired by Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, is likely to consider “acceptance of necessity (AoN)” for the 114-jet project later this month or early next month. There are seven contenders in the competition. First six contenders were F/A-18 and F-16 (US), Gripen-E (Sweden), MiG-35 (Russia), Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale while Sukhoi-35 is the latest entry. “Once the AoN is granted to the 114-jet project, the seven contenders will be given three months to respond to the EoI (expression of interest) to take things forward,” said a source. The plan is to get 18 jets in ‘flyaway condition’ within three to five years of finalization of deal. The rest of the jets will be produced in India under a strategic partnership between an Indian company and the foreign company which gets the deal.
The estimated time of contract completion is four to five years. The cost of bare bone fighter is expected to be around 100 million while another 100 million will needed for add-ons in terms of weapons, simulators, and performance-based logistics. Indian air force is running on shortage of aircrafts, it has only 31 fighter squadrons (18 jets in each) while at least 42 are needed to fight a two front war. There are many planned inductions like 36 remaining Sukhois by 2019, the latest purchase of 36 Rafales which are to be inducted from 2019 to 2022. Another 123 fighter jets are being developed by domestic manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the first 40 of them will be inducted by 2022 while the rest thereafter.
The current purchase of 114 fighter jets will prepare the country for a two front war. There are some alternatives to the current purchases like production of 90 Rafales in the country but this could not be done because the 1st installment itself became controversial due to constant accusations and needless controversy by the opposition. “If India goes in for 36 more Rafales or decides to license produce 90 of them here, just one more airbase would be required. It will reduce acquisition and induction costs. But for 114 fighters of a different kind, at least three new bases with requisite infrastructure will be needed,” said a government official. But the political controversy over the deal made it impossible to explore it further despite the fact that similar jets would have made operations easy. Indian air force already operates seven types of fighter jets in Sukhoi-30MKI, Mirage-2000, Jaguar, MiG-21, MiG-27, MiG-29 and Tejas, Rafale will be the eighth one and the one purchased through the new deal will be the ninth.
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