India abandons the re-engineering of its Jaguars and struggles to modernize its air force

Indian authorities announced the suspension, then cancellation, of the contract for the re-engineering of 80 of its Jaguar attack planes by Honeywell F125 reactors, the American manufacturer's financial offer of $2,4 billion being considered too high. This announcement calls into question the entire already very chaotic modernization schedule of the Indian Air Force, threatening in the short term 6 of its fighter squadrons out of the 29 in service, while the Indian Air Force estimates that it must have 40 squadrons. to carry out all of its missions. The Indian Jaguars are already undergoing a modernization of their avionics, but the abandonment of the new engine risks precipitating the withdrawal from service of the entire fleet, since the Adour engines which power the aircraft would have seen their performance decreases by 15 to 30% over the years.

In addition to a program aimed at recovering spare parts to extend the maintenance of the aircraft from former users of the Jaguar, the government would also consider, according to the article in “The Print”, increasing the number of additional Su-30MKIs ordered , so as to compensate for the operational deficit that the withdrawal of the Jaguars would cause.

SU30mKI and Tejas Defense News | Fighter aircraft | Military aircraft construction
Su30MKI and Teja, two of the main contenders for replacing Indian Jaguars, with the Rafale French

In fact, in recent weeks, announcements have followed one another concerning new aircraft acquisition programs by the IAF, with often contradictory arguments between them. Two weeks ago, we echoed the rumor concerning a possible order of 200 Rafale, but since then, a new rumor this time speaking of a new order of 36 Rafale appeared. At the same time, additional orders Su-30MKI and Mig-29 with Russia are regularly discussed, but do not give rise to any firm orders. More recently, it was Tejas’ turn to make the headlines, with a possible order for 80 devices for $3 billion.

All these hypotheses come up against the same conceptual dichotomy that has hampered the Indian Defense effort for years. Indeed, Prime Minister Modi, re-elected with an absolute majority in parliament this spring, has made “Make in India” one of the pillars of his economic and industrial policy, wanting to make India a global player in the manufacturing industry. Defense and aeronautical technologies. But this doctrine clashes violently with a reality which seems immovable, namely the critical inefficiency of Indian industry. Thus, the state manufacturer HAL offered its Tejas at a price of 450 Crore, or $60 million per unit, while Saab offers its Gripen E/F at only $42 million, a device that is much more advanced, efficient, and reliable. Similar problems emerged with HAL's Su-30MKI production line, with devices made in India costing 50% more than those from Russia, with significant quality concerns in addition. The Consortium Rafale had also encountered difficulties of this order, leading Dassault to refuse to guarantee the availability of the aircraft if they were built by HAL, leading to the cancellation of the MMRCA contract for 114 aircraft to order 36 aircraft built in France.

JF17 Pakistan Defense News | Fighter aircraft | Military aircraft construction
The JF17 Thunder co-produced with China has become the spearhead of the Pakistan Air Force.

These political and industrial delays have led to a very significant weakening of the Indian air forces, which today only have 29 fighter squadrons, of which only 18 are equipped with aircraft considered "modern" such as the 225 Su-30MKIs, the 65 Mig29 and the 60 Mirage 2000. The rest of the Indian fleet is equipped with old aircraft, even if regularly modernized, like the Mig21, the Mig27 and the Jaguar, representing more than 360 aircraft needing to be quickly removed from service and replaced, if only to maintain the current format. In fact, today, the "useful" Indian air force is approximately equivalent to that of Pakistan, which fields more than 150 JF-17 Thunder and 76 F16s partly upgraded to the Block 52 standard. It is therefore impossible to simultaneously face the Pakistan and China if necessary, which today represents the main subject of concern of the Indian general staff, and the reason why it is campaigning to quickly launch new contracts concerning the Rafale, the Mig-29 and the Su-30MKI, even if his preference is for the French plane.

One thing is certain, the industrialist who can effectively “crack” the Indian model, and can ensure efficient production while respecting “make in India”, will have a paved road ahead for many years in New Delhi. This seems to be what the consortium was working on. Rafale » taking advantage of offset clauses accompanying the first contract for 36 aircraft to design an efficient ecosystem ready to support economical and reliable local production of French aircraft, whether in the fields of aeronautics, on-board electronics and propulsion. All that remains is to hope, for Rafale as for India, that an agreement will quickly emerge to overcome the deadly operational deficit which threatens the country.

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