Updated December 21st, 2023 at 22:15 IST

India contemplates Fifth-gen Fighters amid MRFA delays and Make-in-India commitment

India's Defense Ministry reveals a strategic plan for the phased induction of 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) under the Make-in-India initiative.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
IAF | Image:IAF
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Amid concerns over the depleting strength of India's fighter squadrons, the defense ministry has shared a comprehensive plan to address the issue. The Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) procurement, comprising 114 fighter jets, is now strategically progressing under the Make-in-India initiative. The government's move reflects a commitment to bolstering indigenous defense capabilities. 

In response to a parliamentary standing committee, the defense ministry outlined its intention to induct the MRFA in a phased manner. This approach aligns with the Make in India provisions of the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020. The ministry emphasized the multi-pronged strategies employed to ensure the timely and budgeted realization of this ambitious initiative. 

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Committee's recommendation for Fifth-Gen fighters 

The parliamentary standing committee recommended a proactive consideration of acquiring fifth-generation fighter aircraft "over the counter" if delays arise in the MRFA project. The committee's suggestion underscores the importance of maintaining a robust air force and explores alternatives to expedite the process.

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Indian Air Force LCA Tejas | Credit- IAF

Providing a snapshot of the current scenario, the government informed the committee that the Indian Air Force (IAF) operates with 31 fighter aircraft squadrons, against an authorized strength of 42. Expressing concerns over delays in the supply of 40 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the committee urged proactive measures to avoid potential setbacks in the MRFA project. 

The committee acknowledged challenges in Project Kaveri, aimed at developing an indigenous fighter jet engine. The setbacks underscore the need for considering alternative options to ensure timely advancements in defense capabilities. The government's commitment to indigenous development remains a cornerstone in achieving self-reliance. 

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Despite the challenges, the defense ministry highlighted the IAF's proactive measures to mitigate the drawdown of its fighter fleet. The phased induction plan for the MRFA aligns with the imperative of maintaining a well-equipped air force. The committee's recommendation to explore alternatives aligns with the government's commitment to ensuring a robust defense strategy.  

The phased induction plan for the MRFA reflects a careful balancing act between the urgent need for modernization and the imperative of self-reliance in defense manufacturing. The government's strategic move to shift gears under the Make-in-India initiative signifies a pivotal moment in India's fighter jet ambitions. 

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The government's commitment to addressing the fighter squadron shortage, leveraging the Make-in-India initiative, and considering alternative strategies reflects a comprehensive and forward-looking approach to strengthen India's air defense capabilities. 

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Published December 21st, 2023 at 22:14 IST