French Defence Minister Florence Parley was in New Delhi on an official visit from 26 October. As per an official statement the progress of supply of 36 Rafael costing nearly 60000 crores , to the IAF, was discussed in detail during the visit . Parley also travelled to Nagpur on October 27 to lay the foundation stone for a manufacturing facility being set up by Dassault and Reliance Defence as part of the offsets under the Rafael deal. The joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence has been named as DASSAULT RELIANCE AEROSPACE. The Indo French government deal was whittled down from original 126 aircraft down to just 36 basically due to Cost factor. Still the 50% offset clause to be invested by Dassault with its Indian partner comes to a whooping Rs 30000 crores. The first of the aircrafts should start landing sometime in 2019 and the last one should be in by 2022.

Now it is quite obvious that the French Defence Minister must have made a strong offer for selling additional fighters ( and even additional Scorpene submarines) . After all , Americans , the Swedes , the Russians , at times even the brits all are desperately trying to do so regarding their aircrafts. Helping out each of these countries in making their individual pitch are not only their governments, aviation firms , defence analysts but even politicians , business men and arm chair strategists from their respective countries. Each of the firms have also cultivated enough influential opinion shapers/ makers in India also to bat on their behalf. Its going to be a real fat lucrative deal. As every one is fully aware of the fact that the fly boys under Dhanoa would be really happy to get hold of some more jets to ensure full safety of the Indian Airspace.

The present scenario should take us back to early 1980’s . Pakistan had got hold of F16s from UNCLE SAM and IAF had only MIG21s to take them on . Situation was once again back to Sabre and Gnat game of 1965. So we first approached the Ruskies for their latest about to enter service MIG 29s. The Russians pretended as if we were talking about some planes still on the drawing boards. Then we approached the French for their Mirage 2000. They were ever ready but demanded money as if to cover the cost of the present Rafael research also. So the Indian Woman who had shown even Nixon , the American President his rightful place, rose to the occasion. For a change the IAF , PMO, MoD, External Affairs , DRDO , HAL and few others all played their game in perfectly synchronised manner under the able PM . Statements here and there , inadvertent slip of tongue, planned leakages, protracted negotiations , massive debates in media, advertisements in newspapers for hiring of accommodations for HAL and such things kept everyone guessing. Though she may not have achieved everything as planned but IAF received 2xSquadrons + of Mirage 2000 and 3xsquadrons of MIG29 just a two to three years after her death . The Mirage were not only the latest at that time but also provided India with aerial nuclear delivery capability. The MIG 29 also so formidable interceptors, entered both USSR Air force and IAF service at nearly the same time. Today they still form the backbone of IAF as able supporters to Sukhoi MKIs .

Today India needs to be fully prepared for a two front War situation if push comes to shove at any point . We should do every thing possible to prevent such a scenario but we need to be prepared . A quick glance indicates that 30 + fighter squadrons are needed for a comfortable all round defence of the Indian Air Space. Another 15+ squadrons of strike force are required to make deep inroads on both the Fronts simultaneously. Finally another 15 Squadrons are needed for close support to the land and naval battles which will be going on with full ferocity. So now we need to forget about 45 squadron Force , instead start talking , thinking and planning for a 65 Squadron IAF.

However presently things may be looking bleak. What will we be having in 2020…… 15 x Sukhoi MKI Squadrons , 2x Mirage 2000 Sqns, 3x MIG 29 Sqns, 6x Jaguars Sqns, 6x MIG 21 Bisons Sqns, 4x MIG 27 Sqns and 2x Tejas Sqns……a total of 38 Sqns out of which Bison and Bahadurs being on their last leg .

Hence there is need to fine tune the game once again to achieve our aim like the 80s. The IAF has stated its requirement for additional twin-engine fighter jets and has expressed its desire for more Rafael jets. Though, with phasing out of several squadrons of MiG-21s and MiG-27 the focus is also on procuring a single-engine fighter jet . “ Right now, we are trying to make up numbers with single-engine aircraft …,” Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said earlier this month in response to questions on the IAF’s procurement plans. However the resources are limited and we need not only to prioritise but fine tune the “ game” to achieve our aim. So if the French climb down in the pricing area , offer ToT cum make in India and tempting off sets then may be Rafael can join IAF in more numbers . Also lets see what the Russians have to offer finally. We can have just a few Squadrons of FGFA or they can turn out to be the Made in India replacement for Sukhoi MKIs . F35s are simply too costly as replacement / complement of Sukhoi MKI .

We cannot afford to kill the Tejas effort in favour of any other single engine aircraft of any variety for any reason whatsoever. Even if we go for the obsolete F16 or the yet to enter service Grippen , then by the time first of them start joining IAF it will be minimum 2025 and we will be able to build up 10 squadrons earliest, even with accelerated speed not before say 2032. Whereas by concentrating on Tejas and accelerating its pace we can easily have more than 15 squadrons of Tejas by 2032 . Money to be wasted on foreign procurement needs to be spent on Tejas. These will not only be 4th Gen +++++ fighters but also ensure take off our aviation technology/ base/ industry. Export variants of Tejas needs to be planned and negotiated with countries eagerly waiting. Further numbers can be added by FGFA and our own accelerated AMCA. By 2035 HAL should be working not only on the Tejas replacement but also on our AHCA .

The present PMO needs to pick up the baton and conduct the Garba Orchestra in true Gujarati style to get the IAF the best deal.