September 18, 2015

Indian Air Force scrambling to outgun China, Pakistan in the air

After the J-20, set to be China's first fifth-generation stealth fighter, begins service with frontline units, the People's Liberation Army Air Force will be undefeatable by the Indian Air Force in any future aerial warfare between the two nations according to the Sina Military Network based in Beijing.
In order to up their game against this potential future threat, India originally planned to purchase 126 Dassault Rafale fighters from France, through its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft program. However, the Indian government withdrew the program on July 30 this year. Instead, New Delhi tried to reach a new contract with Paris to purchase only 36 Rafales. However, the contract was not finalized as of the end of July.
One third of the Indian Air Force's fighters currently in service are still obsolete Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft introduced from the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Indian Air Force plans to decommission all of its MiG-21 fighters before the end of this year. However, it is not having much progress in finding advanced combat aircraft to replace them. It has purchased a total of 272 Su-30MKI fighter from Russia. Among them, 220 have been delivered.
The Indian Air Force has also attempted to upgrade its MiG-29SMT and Mirage 2000-5MK2 fighters to face the potential Chinese threat. However, it is unlikely the Indian Air Force will be able to compete with the PLA Air Force, which is equipped with 200 Su-27SK/J-11 fighters, 100 Su-30MKK fighters, 300 J-10A fighters and more advanced combat aircraft such as the J-16 and the J-10B/C. Nor does the Indian Air Force have any fifth-generation fighters to compete against China's J-20 and J-31, both currently under development.
Even competing against its old enemy Pakistan may prove problematic for India. The Pakistan Air Force has about 80 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters in service and has begun production of the J-17 Thunder multirole fighter also known as the FC-1 Xiaolong developed jointly by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and China's state-run Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group. Developing stealth fighters jointly with Russia seems to be the only option left for the Indian Air Force.
However, India must pay US$2 billion to Russia in development expenditures for the PAK-FA/T-50 fighter. It will be known as the FGFA by the Indian Air Force. The price of each of those fifth-generation stealth fighters is estimated to be US$100 million. The Sina Military Network said that this price is likely way too expensive for the Indian government due to the economic condition of the nation in recent years.


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