- The Indian citizens are aware of how the nation’s defense capabilities to fight adversaries are largely dependent on foreign manufacturers. More specifically, our dependency on Russia is pronounced since almost 70% of the military inventory originates from there. Of course, we are also dependent on France, the UK, the US, and Israel to shore up our operational readiness and preparedness to tackle enemy misadventures. Both our Western and Eastern borders are volatile at best of times as Pakistan and China relentlessly pose challenges to our sovereignty. Indeed, Indian defense forces are primarily focused on these two frontiers to ensure the enemy is kept at bay. However, modern warfare has evolved over the years. This is where the challenges lie.
- Trust me, none of the countrymen would ever question the integrity, supreme sacrifice, great valor, and laying down lives to attain martyrdom when the situation demands from our military personnel. Time and again our military has proved its worth. The moot point to ponder over here is whether the armed forces are adequately equipped with military inventory to take on the challenges posed by the enemies. Let’s assess what the prevailing situation is on the matter. Historically, indigenous defense productions have suffered in the country despite successive central governments pushing ahead with the agenda. But the fast-changing geostrategic and geopolitical scenario must have prompted the present dispensation to push even further.
- As such, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent flight on the twin-seat variant of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft highlights the determined political push for the development and induction of indigenous fighters. The Tejas, in its different variants lined up in the next few years, are set to become the mainstay of the Air Force, replacing aging jets like MiG-21. While the initial years of Tejas’s development saw technical snags and non-enthusiast reception in certain quarters, those bad memories have been firmly put behind now. The turning point in quality upgrade came thanks to the emergence of China as India’s principal strategic adversary. The next push was the Ukraine war, which jeopardized foreign defense supply chains.
- As one of the largest defense importers in the world, India is faced with the triple challenge of ensuring advanced combat capabilities, supply chains that can’t be disrupted by external geopolitical events, and meeting China’s growing assertiveness. This is where the Tejas come in. The Air Force is already down to 31 squadrons when at least 42 are required to meet the combined China-Pakistan challenge. The deficit can only be made up through faster production of Tejas, which currently stands at a tardy eight fighters a year. Needless to mention, The HAL must significantly improve its production rate to meet its targets and ensure that the Air Force’s combat capabilities are not compromised. PM’s endorsement should give a fillip to this endeavor big time.