India’s Tejas fighter: A flying turkey?By Asia Sentinel Jan 20, 2011 12:13PM UTC
India’s defense establishment develops a 30-year-old fighter jet, writes Asia Sentinel’s Siddharth Srivastava
India’s Tejas indigenous Light Combat Aircraft has received its initial operational clearance, paving the way for its induction into the Indian Air Force by June.
However, the Tejas takes flight amid concerns that while the aircraft is an extremely expensive attempt at widening and deepening India’s high-tech industrial base, it has only produced what amounts to a 30-year-old aircraft.
In a further disheartening contrast, the Tejas, presumably India’s most technically advanced indigenous aircraft program, was rolled out at the same time as China chose to unveil, ahead of President Hu Jintao’s US trip, its J-20 so-called ‘stealth’ fighter, designed to rival the best offerings from the US’s Boeing, Lockheed and others, to the general amazement of the intelligence community.
“It is part of the story of India’s lamentable and expensive history of domestic defense procurement programs,” said a London-based security analyst. The analyst also questioned the aircraft’s role, asking: “What is a ‘lightweight fighter’ in the Indian strategic context given their large number of highly capable Russian long-range aircraft? Is it an advanced trainer or intended for use in low intensity operations, i.e. against internal insurgents?”
India has five long-range Sukhoi squadrons in operation, which total around 105 aircraft, and aims to possess another 280 such fighters.
As has been the case of several domestic defense projects, India conceptualized the long delayed light fighter program as long ago as 1983, with the government eventually pumping nearly Rs145 billion (US$3.2 billion) into a development effort that was initially budgeted at slightly over Rs 5.5 billion.