The Panoramic Strategic View:
Control over international armament industry and its supply is key for global power centers to maintain a desired world order by managing the intensity of conflict around the world. In order to do so introduction of new innovation at development and production of cutting edge technology in battle space is paramount and contested fiercely among nations. In order to design, develop and produce the fifth next generation of combat aircraft US has tied the western world in a alliance where some nations (Australia, Canada) have agreed for inducting F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) which has not yet entered production due to operational tests and being critical with respect to the test result.
In order to design, develop and produce the fifth next generation of combat aircraft US has tied the western world in a alliance where some nations (Australia, Canada) have agreed for inducting F-35…
Its a irony that the F 35 Lightning is prohibited from flying in close proximity to “Lightning” due to its vulnerability to catch fire. While F-35 is still a paper tiger, as a “concept” in developing the Fifth next generation combat aircraft is relevant in gauging the trajectory the West is likely to take in the future.
As a concept JSF is a state of the art technology demonstrator designed with future battle scenario in mind. In meeting a complex set of mission objectives the JSF has limited its ability to perform most missions. Inclusion of JSF as not just multi-role, multi-mission combat aircraft but also as a common tri-service platform ended in production of bad plane. According to Sean Pierre who technically defined the A-10 close support (ground attack) and the F-16 Falcon in late 1970’s on behalf of the US Department of Defence (DoD) the JSF is a TURKEY designed by newbies who have not defined JSF in terms air combat.
In meeting the US Navy requirement for a Vertical Take Off And Landing (VTOL) aircraft, has increased the crafts weight and shortened wing span which limits JSF to accomplish quick turns during a dog fight. To increase the planes invisibility to hostile RADAR, the JSF is designed to carry its weapon payload concealed within, this has reduced its weapons payload without making it invisible to hostile RADAR. The JSF designers at the Lockheed Martin while admitting that JSF is not ready to see combat stand firm on its objective. However JSF is justified in terms of it being unlike the present fighter jets.
JSF is designed for jointness among the services at the operational level. For example, on paper JSF is designed for entering a deteriorated battle condition and lay the first stone to achieving air-superiority followed by air-dominance. In order to do so it operates as a collective platform where pilot of a JSF will pick up targets and fire his ammunition from another JSF in the theater.
The JSF design has reiterated the direction of combat aviation history which is now in the phase of Beyond-Visual-Range-Combat (BVRC), Stealth, Multiple Role & Mission, Fly-By-Wire and Precision Bombing. However most of these niche technology have a long way to go before becoming combat effective and hence a reliable option in using force.
If India’s procurement increases at a high rate from the NATO member nations then India adds on to its uniqueness by not just being an Air Force to integrate various platforms but find joint operability with NATO.
In its overall objective, apart from meeting mission requirement the JSF with its extensive application of technology provides pilots to assume the role of a tactician more than the actual flying of the aircraft.
With the objectives of combat effectiveness, overall production and serviceability other nations have designed their own platforms and offered it for export. Russia has produced SU-35, MIG-35, and begun testing the prototypes of TA-50/PAK-FA. France having backed out of European development project to develop the next generation of combat aircraft among European powers Germany and Great Britain, went on to produce and export Rafale C. Having commissioned in 1998 the Dassault designed Rafale saw combat during the French military operations over Libya. Germany and Britain produced the Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden produced the single engine Gripen. China and Pakistan jointly produced JF-17/FC-1 and India produced its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas in similar class with JF-17.
Sukhoi designed SU-35
This new paradigm allows Pakistan to consider the export of JF-17 Thunder to countries like Bulgaria in competition with used platforms from NATO member nations. Bulgaria has a hard choice of choosing the US $ 10-15 million JF-17 for its incompatibility with NATO combat aerial platforms. Bulgaria’s new membership to NATO necessitates a platform compatible with western combat aircraft for inter-operability. With no such compatibility issue India, China, Pakistan operate a range of platforms which include domestic assembly line under license production. If India’s procurement increases at a high rate from the NATO member nations then India adds on to its uniqueness by not just being an Air Force to integrate various platforms but find joint operability with NATO.
From a industry point of view sale of weapons platform has multiple significance to conduct international relations. Non inclusion of Rafale C for Australian Air Force procurement of combat jet came as a surprise to French Dassault aviation which had began preparation for a serious marketing campaign on Australian soil. In a late announced agreement the Australian government and Lockheed Martin signed an agreement for Australia to procure the F-35 JSF with out any competition. Delay in production type variant of JSF has forced Australia to procure the Super Hornet as a temporary substitute.
India’s leap-frog into a aviation design and develop capable of expansion as in this case had impact on its strategic issue.
Lessons from military history
Nature of warfare as it is shaped in the 21st century has in turn shaped the nature of war-fighting which is specialized unlike the 20th century world wars and subject to international law, morality, capability, and operational art. A high rate of causality in modern warfare is unacceptable and therefore concepts such as – Beyond Visual Range Combat, No Contact Warfare, Psychological Warfare, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Precision/Laser/RADAR Guided, Fly By Wire have been developed for meeting the requirements necessitate by a change in nature of war. The 21st century warfare is headed towards “peacekeeping” than a attrition based war fighting of the world wars.
Given Aristotelean ideas about future in On Interpretation, future is “in-determinant,” war-fighting in the traditional sense where a opponent is seeking to annihilate or force submission is possible only in situation where the overall capability is in favor of Offence. Proliferation of weapon system from US, Russia, and European powers has generated a “clocking” effect which supports a balance of power (Offence<Defence) theory among most military power. For example an acceptance of US Navy that its ability to project power as it is traditionally used to is limited due to influx in Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) capabilities of China, Iran, Russia.
To meet this challenge United States led group of nations classified as Allies, Partners, or Friends are adapting their force structure, training, and platforms to what Air Sea Battle Office refers as ASB doctrine. Russia although while not having a alliance based approach has defence cooperation with many countries such as China. China is at the final stage of inducting SU-35 from Russia which is finding excuse to sell the craft with additional 1000 hours of armament testing which remains before final export configuration to Chinese. Chinese are expected to avoid the tests and take delivery on simple changes like language on user interface.
Balance is created by cross-wind generated where Pakistan flies with a Russian RD-93 engine and India flies its US made engine. India’s leap-frog into a aviation design and develop capable of expansion as in this case had impact on its strategic issue. In the history of combat jet aviation competition among designers is fierce as technology enables enhanced combat capable aircraft. Simple ideas but most complex in terms of methodology have undergone micro analysis for implementation and is riddled with designing a “Combat” capable aircraft.
Combat aviation history has since see a technology war giving rise to technological nationalism.
The combat aviation history begins and has parallels with international politics. An enforced proliferation of German technology with the end of Nazi government revolutionized the aviation arm with its swept wing design, delta wing design and jet engine, which led to British Rolls Royce export 10 jet engines to Russia who improvised them to produce MIG. The MIG’s produced “surprise” in-between the Korean war in 1950’s and met its western counterpart the US Sabre. Combat aviation history has since see a technology war giving rise to technological nationalism. Each nation picked and built to a new tradition of combat aviation design state of the art. Competition over both international and domestic design is matched with creating self dependent aviation industrial base with high-end technology and infrastructure. German technology was enforced and creatively innovated.
However its transfer is subject to politics. The export of Rafale C to replace the MIG-21 (upgraded) happens after 17 yrs since its induction in French Air Force in 1998. It will be operational at full capacity in due course as the deal includes license production in India. For a country like India which exports from Western and Russian design based on strategic denominators makes strategic choice and is expected to calculate the political consequences. With JSF not being the safe bet at Lockheed Martin, India has forgone the opportunity to be a significant partner to Russia in its development of fifth next generation combat aircraft and incorporate technology transfer to a upgrade version or another design of LCA Tejas. India has expertise in Russian designs which is as a school of art in competition with western design giving “clocking” technologies. Since Russian technology transfer is different to the western transfer riddled with sanction, India’s import of French made Rafale C will find a parity in Russian designed combat aircraft in Pakistan Air Force, Chinese design already being operational at two squadron level.
With a delay of 20 plus years in inducting state of the art aviation technology from west and other suppliers, India is unlikely to find superiority in air armament until it develops its industrial base.
Did India make “Strategic Choice” without “choosing”
At round table organized by Vayu-StratPost Air Power round table (June, 2014) it was unclear among the participants which included retired chiefs of the Indian Air Force on what the IAF wanted through its MMRCA deal. Admiral (Retd) Arun Prakash raised the issue of the exact parameter of the combat aircraft requirement of IAF. The term medium weight and multi-role came up for close scrutiny. It forces one to think if medium weight was a oasis in between the domestic production of LCA (Light weight-single) and Russian designs (Heavy weight – twin engine) from a defence deal point of view. The multi-role requirement is not defined in terms of mission (bombing, ground attack, interceptor, air-superiority, air-dominance etc). Rafale C deal is also based on rigorous selection procedure which signals out cost as one reason having satisfied performance.
Deals such as Rafale C and those in pipeline such as western air defence system Patriot missile defence system enforce the possibility of system integration with other powers such as NATO. With a delay of 20 plus years in inducting state of the art aviation technology from west and other suppliers, India is unlikely to find superiority in air armament until it develops its industrial base. A careful study of war and high technology must precede expending half of 42 billion US $ defence budget.
 This is followed by the US (6.8%) and Israel (5.2%). Rahul Bedi and James Hardy (2014), “India Unhappy At Russia’s MI-35 Sale To Pakistan” IHS Janes Defence Weekly; 23 June, 2014. Available at http://www.janes.com/article/39894/india-unhappy-at-russia-s-mi-35-sale-to-pakistan
 Rahul Bedi (2014), “ India, Russia sign secret deal to supply materiel to Afghan army” IHS Janes Defence Weekly; 6 May, 2014. Available at http://www.janes.com/article/37522/sources-india-russia-sign-secret-deal-to-supply-materiel-to-afghan-army
 Until this deal Pakistan imported the Chinese built RD-93 engines designed by Russia. Farhan Bokhari (2014), “IDEAS 2014: Pakistani defence minister says Russia ready to sell RD-93 engine directly to Islamabad” IHS Janes Defence Weekly; 01 December, 2014. http://www.janes.com/article/46580/ideas-2014-pakistani-defence-minister-says-russia-ready-to-sell-rd-93-engine-directly-to-islamabad
 Reuben F Johnson (2015), “Analysis: India faces crunch decision over Rafale, PAK-FA” IHS Janes Defence Weekly; 8 April, 2015. Available at http://www.janes.com/article/50530/analysis-india-faces-crunch-decision-over-rafale-pak-fa
 Gareth Jennings (2015), “Bulgaria to be offered JF-17 by Pakistan” IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 04 March, 2015. Available at http://www.janes.com/article/49749/bulgaria-to-be-offered-jf-17-fighter-by-pakistan
 Indian Air Force’s uniqueness as a force to operate and intergrate multiple-nation supplied combat aircrafts was mentioned so by Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha in an interview to Doordarshan News on 08 October, 2014.