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IAF denies showing interest in fighter jet F-35's procurement

By Vikas
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    Amid reports that the Indian Air Force (IAF) had shown interest in Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said that no such "request been made to the Americans."

    The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighters. The fifth-generation combat aircraft is designed to perform a ground attack and air superiority missions.

     Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa

    ''Americans have not been officially approached for a briefing on the F-35,'' IAF Chief Dhanoa was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

    The clarification from the Dhanoa comes at a time when IAF is already down to 31 squadrons of fighter aircraft against an authorisation of 42.

    The Indian Express report states that the cost of operating a single-engine fighter is lesser than that of a double-engine fighter. IAF is also looking at indigenously developed Tejas fighter aircraft. The HAL Tejas is a single-seat, single-jet engine, a multirole light fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The aircraft has a tail-less compound delta-wing configuration, which provides for high manoeuvrability. It came from the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme, which began in the 1980s to replace India's ageing MiG-21 fighters.

    Timeline of developments regarding Tejas' induction in IAF:

    • In March 2005, the IAF placed an order for 20 aircraft, with a similar purchase of another 20 aircraft to follow. All 40 were to be equipped with the F404-GE-IN20 engine.
    • In December 2006, a 14-member "LCA Induction Team" was formed at Bangalore to prepare the Tejas for service and assist with its induction into service.
    • On 25 April 2007, the first Limited Series Production (LSP-1) Tejas performed its maiden flight, achieving a speed of Mach 1.1.
    • In December 2009, the government-sanctioned ₹8,000 crore to begin production of the fighter for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
    • On 10 January 2011, IOC, allowing IAF pilots to fly the Tejas, was awarded by then Defence Minister A K Antony to Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal P V Naik.
    • HAL was instructed by the Indian government to strictly adhere to deadlines to ensure Initial Operational Clearance-II by the end of 2013 and Final Operational Clearance (FOC) by the end of 2014.
    • On 20 December 2013, the IOC-II was issued, after which the aircraft was cleared to be flown by regular IAF pilots and begin induction into squadron service.
    • The Final Operational Clearance (FOC) campaign began in December 2013, with three aircraft from Tejas flight-line successfully completing advanced weapon trials.
    • In May 2015, the Mark I aircraft was criticized by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for not meeting IAF requirements.
    • In October 2015, IAF Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha confirmed that the air force had ordered 120 (six squadrons) of Tejas Mark 1A, triple the 40 aircraft it had previously committed to buying.
    • On 26 February 2016, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in the Lok Sabha that the Indian Air Force will accept three to four Tejas this year and stand up a total of eight squadrons in eight years.
    • In November 2017, it was reported that the Indian Air Force told the government that the Tejas is inadequate for the single-engined fighter program with insufficient flight endurance, smaller payload capacity, increased maintenance hours, and higher costs for maintenance compared to other contender aircraft.
    • In February 2018, refuelling of Tejas with the engine running-known as "hot refuelling"-was carried out.

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