An interesting piece of news from India. India's government is setting up a special committee to deal with a rather peculiar situation with long-awaited (since mid-1980s) India's indigenous light fighter Tejas. It is not an impressive aircraft and its only remarkable feature is that it is designed and manufactured in India, mostly.
As you may have guessed already, the engine for this aircraft is not India's made. So, in some sense Tejas' saga is a very good example of an immense difficulty of inserting one into the field of aviation, both commercial and combat, without a school.Sources told The Indian Express that in response to a request for a proposal for 83 Tejas Mark1A fighter jets issued by the IAF in December last year, HAL quoted a price of Rs 463 crore per jet in April. This raised eyebrows in the government, sources said, as the price compared unfavourably even with more modern foreign fighters. “The HAL supplies the more modern Russian Sukhoi fighter, which it assembles at Nashik, at Rs 415 crore. The Russians supply it at Rs 330 crore. The Swedish Gripen was offered to us for Rs 455 crore, and F-16 for Rs 380 crore, and both were to be made in India. The HAL itself gave us Tejas Mark1 at Rs 100 crore less. This price for an improved version seems high,” sources said.
Indian Air Force's (IAF) main fighter today is a Sukhoi-30 MKI. India operates almost 250 of those and it is an immensely powerful fighter, which also made a lot of noise and raised the international reputation of IAF very high. But here is a catch: how a mediocre light fighter of Tejas variety can cost 1.5 times more than Russian-built state-of-the-art fighter is a complete mystery. Or maybe it is not a mystery at all. In the end, much more advanced technologically and economically China still buys Russian jets and gets into the Joint Venture with Russia to produce long-range wide body CR 929. Much more than money and even engineering expertise is required for a creation of a state-of-the-art (military) technology. Technology is a cultural thing and this can not be bought, it has to be developed and even this is not just the matter of time.
India today, if one discounts all kinds of cultural memes, is associated primarily with software field. It is an important field, but it is nowhere near in terms of human, scientific and industrial capital required for a viable competitive aerospace industry. That is on several orders of magnitude more complex task and that requires not just some elite strata of people, albeit it is a requirement, but overall cultural environment which creates appropriate "pressures" for a development of something like modern state-of-the-art fighter or a commercial jet. India is not there yet. But that is a whole other story which, for decades now, creates highly emotional discussions on a possibility of India becoming a true superpower.
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