Indian Armed Forces have told the Centre to scrap proposals for advanced versions of indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft and Arjun main-battle tank. Instead, they want foreign single-engine fighters and futuristic armoured fighting vehicles through the ‘Make in India’ route.
Recently, the Indian Army floated a tender to international weapons manufacturing companies for 1,770 highly-advanced tanks called the future ready combat vehicles (FRCVs). The army believes that these FRCVs will give them “rapid dominance in an expanded battlespace”. The Air Force is also gearing up to acquire 114 single-engine fighter jets soon.
Media reports suggest that the defence minister has been told that Tejas are not enough to protect the Indian skies as they are far behind competitors like the JAS 39 Gripen manufactured by the Swedish firm Saab and US-made F-16 of Lockheed Martin.
In a presentation to the government, the IAF told that the endurance of TEJAS in combat is just about 59 minutes as against 3 hours of Gripen and nearly 4 hours of F-16. Though Tejas is small, it cannot carry as much ordnance as its competitors. It can carry a pay-load of just three tonnes as against Gripen’s capacity of six tonnes and F-16 seven tonnes. Moreover, the fighter jet also faces the hurdle of limited flying capability in a single sortie. While the Tejas can do just 300km, the other single-engine fighters can be effective over a radius of over 500km.
Looking at the security threats posed by China and Pakistan, the IAF is weighing on its short- and medium-term needs. After being in the making for nearly three decades, Tejas is yet to become combat-ready or achieve “final operational clearance.”
The Army, which has so far inducted 124 Arjun Mark-1 tanks, is also not keen to order 118 Arjun Mark-II tanks on the pretext that they have yet to clear field trials. However, experts fear that FRCV will be detrimental to the indigenous FMBT project.