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In Next Two Years, Only 26 Fighter Squadrons, Short By 16

In another two years, the IAF will be left with an alarmingly low 26 squadrons of fighter aircraft against an authorisation of 42 — even if all the scheduled supplies, including of Rafale and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, are completed on time.

Around the same time, the Pakistan Air Force will have 25 fighter squadrons while China’s PLA Air Force is estimated to have the capacity to bear 42 squadrons against India.

The Indian Express has reviewed official documents, which show that while the IAF currently has 30 fighter squadrons, the number will slip to 26 in 2021 and 2022. By then, six squadrons of the old Soviet-era MIG aircraft will be decommissioned, and only one squadron of the French Rafale and another of the HAL-manufactured LCA Tejas will be  additionally inducted.

The number is projected to rise to 30 by 2027, with four more squadrons of LCA Tejas. The contract for these 83 LCA Tejas Mark1A is yet to be signed between the IAF and HAL.

At current projections, documents show, the number of fighter squadrons will come down to 21 by 2037 and 19 by 2042. To offset the shortfall, the plan is to have 18 squadrons of LCA Tejas Mark1 and Mark2, and six squadrons of a foreign fighter aircraft for which an initial inquiry was issued last year.

IAF spokesperson, Group Captain Anupam Banerjee, did not respond to an email and text messages from The Indian Express seeking comment.

The IAF last had its full complement of 42 fighter squadrons in 2002 — each squadron generally has 18 aircraft. However, after the Kargil war earlier, it had officially flagged the need to induct seven squadrons of a Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to maintain its combat edge.

Source: Indian Express