First Te­jas squadron likely in July

SP's MAI - - EDITOR’S DESK - Jayant Baran­wal Pub­lisher & Ed­i­tor-in-Chief

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.

Happy reading!

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