New Delhi faces a series of decisions on fast jet procurements that will determine the future direction and capabilities of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) combat aircraft fleet.
At the heart of the matter is the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme – for which France’s Dassault Rafale was down-selected in January 2012 – and Russia’s Sukhoi T-50/PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter.
The central difficulty is what analysts in India described to IHS Jane’s as a “massive disconnect between the Ministry of Defence [MoD], the IAF, and the political community in India who have to contend with larger diplomatic and industrial issues” on what the future IAF should look like.
At the centre of this conflict are those in favour of the Rafale and those who would instead place funds earmarked for that procurement into the development of a version of the T-50/PAK-FA, known in India as the Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA).
For New Delhi, the issue is that “the money does not exist to have both the Rafale and T-50 programmes and, if you choose one over the other, you are making decisions that have long-ranging effects”, an Indian analyst told IHS Jane’s .