Everyone knows that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is gung ho about his Make-in-India project. So much so that he makes the same pitch every time he goes abroad on one of his fancy foreign trips. But does the world know how far he would go to establish the reign of his made-in-India brand? According to a Reuters report , he is willing to go back 32 years.
The report states that the government has turned down the military’s request to expand the acquisition of 36 fighter planes from Dassault Aviation SA to plug vital gaps, officials said, nudging it to accept an indigenous combat plane 32 years in the making.
The push for India’s struggling Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) also comes at a time when the air force is at its weakest operational strength since the 1962 war against China, which is causing anxiety within military circles.
Cleared by the government in 1983, the LCA designed by the government’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was meant to be the backbone of the air force due for induction in 1994.
Instead, it suffered years of delay and chaos with scientists trying to build the world’s most modern light combat aircraft from scratch, including the engine.
Eventually they scrapped the engine, turning to GE Aviation and lowering their ambitions for a state-of-the-art fighter. So far, only one aircraft has been produced and even that is awaiting final operational clearance, now delayed to early 2016.
An independent investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India into the LCA programme identified 53 “shortfalls” in the plane. In a report in May, the auditor said that the plane wasn’t as light as promised, the fuel capacity and speed were lower than required and there were concerns about safety.
Retired Air Marshal M Matheswaran, a former deputy chief of the Integrated Defence Staff, said the LCA was obsolete.
He said the plane was at best a technology demonstrator on which Indian engineers could build the next series of aircraft, not something the air force could win a war with.
(With inputs from Reuters)
All images sourced f rom Tejas