SOURCE: MAHESHA M / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
CDS General Bipin Rawat few weeks ago made a rather controversial statement when he said that Indian Air Force (IAF) has agreed to replace its fighter jets it had sought under MMRCA tender with locally made LCA-Tejas and soon his statement was rebutted by the Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria who later clarified that LCA-Tejas being a Lightweight class fighter it can’t replace MMRCA requirement and specified need for “Rafale class” fighter jet but IAF will go ahead with its plans to acquire 83 Tejas Mk1A,100 Tejas Mk2, and another 100 AMCA in next two decades to replace its current fleet with locally developed fighter jets while still making a case to acquire 114 jets under MMRCA tender.
Earlier this year Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) had offered to develop a 24.5-tonne Twin-engine fighter jet for Carrier-based operations to meet the requirement of the Indian Navy and also replace Russian developed Mig-29K fleet from 2030 onwards once Twin Engined Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) jet goes into production. ADA also has offered IAF a lighter variant 23 tonnes Twin-engine fighter jet minus the heavy landing gears and strengthen rear fuselage thus putting the aircraft in “Rafale class”, but since it was not clear if the project will be approved so it was assumed that IAF was not fully onboard, and was yet to comment officially on the program, so confusion remained.
As per the latest report of NDTV, Ministry of Defence (MOD) has officially given go head to ADA to work on design elements of the new proposed fighter jet which ADA claims will be ready for first flight in 2026 and ready to enter production in 2030 onwards in the Indian Navy. The report also confirms that the meeting was attended by MOD, ADA, Indian Navy, and IAF officials which for the first time also in a way shows that IAF might come on board the project soon since it is pretty much occupied by Tejas Mk1A and Mk2 program at present.
TEDBF will also face competition from Tejas Mk2 and AMCA which both will be pretty active programs at the time and IAF can simply choose between these two aircraft if for any chance MMRCA tender is canceled and never happens.