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Is The Tejas Mk.1 A Real Game Changer ?

The Tejas might just be the new game changer needed by the IAF to bolster its antiquated air-force in face of the high technology threats of PLAAF with a solid adversary program to learn about the opponents' maneuvers and techniques

On our 72nd republic Day India stands proud in face of its achievements of the previous year and has been pledging to jump back into the game of international politics with a renewed vigor. This was seen when the DRDO finally unveiled the Tejas Mk.1 light combat aircraft, one which is completely manufactured in India, along with certain weapon systems like ASTRA BVR missiles which makes this flying machine a wonder to behold. Despite the difficulties that occurred during the development phases and the constant pressure from the IAF, they finally managed to deliver a fully combat-ready aircraft that does meet the high expectations of the Indian Air Force. With the state of art weapon systems, avionics, and a very combat-ready platform, the Tejas Mk.1A will definitely be a highlight of the weapons showcase during our Republic Day parade. The acquisition of this indigenously produced aircraft marks a highlight in the Indian defense research as they successfully break a long taboo of underperforming local assets.

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This begs the question; is the DRDO and its affiliates capable of matching the Chengdu Aerospace blow for blow, or is the IAF combat ready for the PLAAF? The answer to both these questions lie in the operational philosophy of the ministries and the nature of the scientific research conducted in the nations. While China has been steadily improving their local aerospace industries to rival American manufacturers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Their latest platform; the Chengdu J-20 variant is claimed to be a fifth generation fighter by the Chinese officials is decked with impressive avionics, electronic warfare and stealth capabilities. Though this claim remains unproven and organizations like the Rand corporation states that the Chinese forces are severely lacking in combat experience and stress strength to face a determined adversary in a conventional warfare. This may prove to be detrimental in the long run, where the performance of the chain of command in the PLAAF might just break down from a strenuous situation.

MiG-21 Bison, the mainstay of the IAF. Pinterest

But India does not fare any better. The air force mainly consists of 2nd and 3rd generation fighters like the MiG 21 and the Mirage 2000, which have survived due to continuous upgrades to its systems. This force is considerably antiquated compared to the contemporary systems fielded by the Chinese counterparts. The Chinese also have more combat planes, cruise missiles, AWACS platforms and UAVs than the Indians. It does give them the numerical advantage, which is very important in a combat scenario. Also the Chinese poses a dedicated strategic bomber force comprised of Russian Iilyushins. This may prove advantageous as Indians would have to send their antiquated aircrafts against a much modern equipped force and without the presence of strategic bombers in the field, the Indians are at a genuine disadvantage in conducting bombing runs against dedicated targets.

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Another hard advantage that the Chinese do possess is the technical know-how of manufacturing combat-ready aircraft compared to India, which has only one significant production underway; that too with severe delays due to bureaucratic and governmental interferences and a high list of demands made by the IAF. India has been making away with purchasing parts and spares from various nations like France, Russia, the USA, and Israel, and among this farrago of spares; it would be extremely difficult to get spares in a full wartime scenario, which would be a disadvantageous position for India.

Tejas manufactured by the HAL. Pinterest.

So is all hope lost for the IAF? Not quite. It takes a minimum observation to find that there has been a significant change in the governmental philosophy due to the change in the ruling party. The BJP has planned to increase their defense purchases from Indian manufacturers by 60 percent by 2022, which would give a significant boost to domestic ordinance manufacturing and give an impetus to the various multinational defense corporations to share technical knowhow with their Indian counter parts.

JF 17 Thunder of PLAAF/ PAF. Pinterest

What India needs right now is to focus on increasing the production of the Tejas Mk1A and concentrate on the manufacturing of the Tejas Mk2 without any delays. The government should continue to support the DRDO and HAL with further economic aids and further provide the technical colleges with the right teachers and facilities to provide the students with proper technical education to aid these agencies in future. On this Republic day, with the showcasing of this indigenous aircraft to the masses, we should also realize that while acquiring state of the art foreign aviation systems and technologies is good, it is better to have a proper technology transfer between the companies, but to get the best results the Indian minds must come together under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense to produce results that are better suited to our needs. Today the government must focus on reviving the number plated battalions by infusing them with not only new blood and tech but also actively take part in various military exercises that are conducted across the globe each year. Only through this practical experience, change in both policy and diplomatic measures and an implementation of a successful adversary program to train the fighters, can India hope to outmaneuver China in the near future.

By Pranjal Ray



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