US Hesitates to Supply Fighter Jet Engines for India's Tejas: What's Next?
22:41 09.11.2023 (Updated: 10:38 10.11.2023)
General Electric agreed to deliver 99 F-404 GE-IN20 engines to power LCA Tejas Mk-1A fighter jets August onwards. But the delivery has reportedly been delayed.
The delays by American aerospace major General Electric (GE) to supply F-404 engines for India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas could “affect the operational readiness” of the Indian Air Force (IAF), a retired Air Marshall said.
Sputnik India has reached out an expert to expose what is behind delays and whether the US can be considered a reliable partner.
Air Marshal M. Matheswaran, the former Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (DCIDS- Policy, Plans, and Force Development), told Sputnik India that the delivery of engines was “critical” for the IAF.
Earlier, the IAF said that the 4.5 generation Tejas Mk-1A and Mk-2 jets would replace its ageing quadrons. New Delhi is also procuring Sukhoi-30 jets
The MiG fighter jets have been the backbone of IAF since the 1960s, a role that Tejas jets are expected to play in coming years.
“From the Air Force’s point of view, it is already short of 20 squadrons (a squadron comprises nearly 18 aircraft). The last three squadrons of Mig-21s will be phased out soon,” Matheswaran remarked.
The IAF received its first delivery of Tejas LCA Mk-1A jets from state-backed Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) this year. According to General Electric, it has already provided 120 F404-GE-IN20 engines of Tejas Mark 1, which is a previous variant of Mk-1A.
Matheswaran noted that the IAF would be “very concerned” about the delivery time as GE had also been roped in to co-produce engines under ‘Make in India’ scheme for Tejas Mark 2, which is an advanced variant.
An MoU to co-produce engines for Mark 2 jets
had been finalized in June.
However, media reported that Indian defence ministry was expecting delays in the execution of the MoU as well.
“If these contracts continue getting delayed
, then it affects the operational readiness,” the former Indian fighter pilot cautioned.
“This should be a temporary disruption and India should strongly take up this issue during the India-US 2+2 Dialogue,” he opined.
US Prioritizes South Korea over India
According to the Indian media report, General Electric met its delivery timeline in supplying the F-404 GE-IN20 engines for South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle fighter jet programme.
“South Korea is a treaty ally of the US and has more longstanding ties with the US than India,” Matheswaran noted.
The Indian expert, however, added that it was difficult to gauge the reason why GE prioritized Seoul over New Delhi as this could have to do with the company’s own production capacity.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold the fifth edition of 2+2 Dialogue with Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Friday.
According to the Indian foreign ministry statement, the two governments would review “progress in cross-cutting aspects of defence and security cooperation, technology value chain collaborations and people-to-people ties” during the meeting.