First Tejas squadron likely in July
After 33 years of development, the first signs of the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas being inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) is becoming real. The IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha flew in the Tejas at the Bengaluru facility of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and has given a thumbs up. The first squadron with four Tejas jets will be formed in July this year.
After the first prototype took to the skies in January 2001, Tejas has clocked over 3,050 flight tests. Tejas which was supposed to replace the obsolete MiG-21, however, has taken excruciatingly long to take to the skies, but now it finally has made it. The IAF Chief carried out manoeuvres in the entire flying envelope and is said to have appreciated the qualities of the aircraft. The first LCA squadron is to come up in July and the IAF has also decided to place an order for an additional 80 Tejas in the advanced LCA MK1A configuration. The first Tejas squadron with four jets is slated to come up at Bengaluru.
The single-engine Tejas, of course, is still not combat-ready. Its final phase of weapon trials, including firing of BVR (beyond visual range) missiles, is currently under way. Moreover, the fighter is to get an AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar and advanced electronic warfare (EW) suite, apart from becoming capable of midair refuelling, for its Mark-IA version that the IAF actually wants.
It is a twin-effort, political will and the defence industrial base pulling up its socks. The two can propel India’s indigenous defence sector. The former Army Chief, General V.P. Malik (Retd) has said that given India’s increasing vulnerabilities and international demands to act as a net provider of security as a rising regional power, the defence allocation and expenditure needs to be supplemented to create the capabilities which the armed forces will need in future. The General is aghast that for the first time ever in the last five decades the country’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did not utter the word ‘defence’ in his budget speech. The General won- ders whether the political class is losing out interest in the country’s defence and security.
In another critique, Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd) has reported the Parliamentary Standiy Committee on Defence which has considered this years defence budget ‘meagre and insufficient’.
In his viewpoint, Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd) talks about how foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence is held up for some reason or the other. He states it obviously includes in-house red tape that shows no sign of abating. The Modi Government needs to address these issues on priority. In another viewpoint he mentions how the defence spending must take into account the three plus PLA Divisions augmenting the Pakistanis along our western border, even if protecting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the stated task. Clearly much more thought to defence must be given by the Modi Government. Just saying allocations are adequate would not do.
Lt General Katoch also has analysed the draft map policy and how it impacts defence and security. Besides these, there are other interesting reports in the fortnightly.