LCA/AJT/SU 30 - The 3 billion US $ Affair :

This has to be a combined story as all three aircraft projects are inter-connected. Successive Ministers of Defence have played ducks and drakes in the pursuance of these three very crucial (and lucrative !!) acquisitions. The ambitious DRDO LCA project which had inputs from Lockheed Martin, Allenia, General Electric, Allied Signals and other foreign firms is facing an uphill task and delays due to sanctions imposed by USA and inherent cost increases. Belgium has cleared some compressor assemblies and Russia is helping India to test the Kaveri engine. The two technology demonstrators are undergoing rigorous taxi trials at Bangalore and Air Marshal Phillip Raj Kumar has been nominated to head the Flight Readiness Committee to clear India’s most bold aviation venture to go solo. However, there is no dearth of analysts who predict that the aircraft will never come into service as a weapon platform, even if it flies in the next one year and will go the Marut way ! So for the next 12 years IAF will be dependant on import of fighters .

Hence orders for 40 and now another 10 SU 30s have been hurriedly placed by three successive governments and 18 copies of the basic versions have been acquired, to be progressively upgraded to MK1 versions with some DRDO’s LCA avionics and multimode radar and imports from France and Israel. The choice before the Indian Air Force a few years ago was to acquire the direly needed 66 AJTs cleared and on the anvil since early 90s or the SUs and the choice fell on the 1.5 billion US$ deal with Government’s goading. The air is still full of muck rakings on the advance payments made in a hurry and now the Air Force is committed. The recent budget has paved the way for the Defence Minister George Fernandes to put his dhobi mark on the 66 AJT 1 billion US$ deal which has narrowed to the more expensive single engined Hawk 20 million (approx) US$, a copy earlier backed by the IAF or the twin Lazarac engined 10 million (approx) US$, a copy for the slightly used Franco German planes lying mothballed. Thailand has contracted to replace 25 US made Broncos with Alpha jet . The BAE team has done its rounds and Robin Cook came down for a visit . The French have made their push and now Defence Minister Alain Richards is in town and soon the cat that licks the cream will be out . 
Since cricket bets are on
hold, India Defence Consultants (IDC) invite your views on which country will get the deal ! Educate us if you know and we will update our site. The AJT will ensure more training at the advanced jet stage and hopefully bring down the high accident rate in the IAF . In the last four weeks two MIG 23s went down one with a fatality as the IAF accident rate hovers at two dozen a year.


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