Still thinking small

The LCA's initial clearance is welcome. But the aircraft, and MoD, have a long way to go.

The grant of the initial operational clearance (IOC) to the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) "Tejas" marks the "release to service" of the indigenously developed fighter aircraft projected as the ideal replacement for the MiGs. But it would be premature to celebrate. An IOC does not certify actual combat readiness. The LCA has been three decades in the making and the Tejas requires a lot of work before the final operational clearance (FOC) — its weapons systems are nowhere near fully in place, and without the full integration of the combat suite, the LCA cannot be called combat ready. The challenge of developing the MK-II version comes thereafter. Apart from weapons components, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will face the tough task of equipping Tejas with in-flight refuelling capacity.

The LCA's protracted journey is a testament to the wrongheadedness of India's approach to arming the military. Nobody can question domestic production in principle, but it's an understatement to say that the DRDO's and ordnance PSUs' track records are poor. The lack of political will and ideas has confined defence production to the PSUs. And India's armed forces have paid the price. Meanwhile, the UPA's tendency has been to freeze serious projects and programmes at the whiff of a scandal and blacklist all key foreign suppliers. While that hasn't precluded fresh procurement scandals, it has significantly compromised India's planned military modernisation and replenishment.

The DRDO's poor planning, over-optimistic timelines and lack of coordination with the armed forces are responsible for the cost and time overruns of major projects. Antony's faith in HAL and the LCA it has yet to fully develop is, therefore, questionable. As long as defence PSUs are not made to compete and collaborate with private manufacturers, India will persist in thinking small and missing the strategic perspective on armaments. Nor will it build the military-industrial complex befitting the world's fourth largest armed forces.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views, opinions and comments posted are your, and are not endorsed by this website. You shall be solely responsible for the comment posted here. The website reserves the right to delete, reject, or otherwise remove any views, opinions and comments posted or part thereof. You shall ensure that the comment is not inflammatory, abusive, derogatory, defamatory &/or obscene, or contain pornographic matter and/or does not constitute hate mail, or violate privacy of any person (s) or breach confidentiality or otherwise is illegal, immoral or contrary to public policy. Nor should it contain anything infringing copyright &/or intellectual property rights of any person(s).
comments powered by Disqus