5 Incredible Fighter Aircraft which did not enter service with Indian Air Force

Since its inception, the Indian Air Force has used some 38 Fighter Aircrafts ( here ) ranging from Russia to British Fighter Aircrafts over the time. In this post, I will discuss 5 incredible Fighter Aircraft which DID not enter service with Indian Air Force, which was once considered but could not pass through due to various reasons.

A. Su-34 Fullback Fighter-Bomber Aircraft:

After Canberra was retired by Indian Air Force in 2005, Indian Air Force got in a strange dilemma for a Strategic Bomber. At that time so 200 Su-34 were envisioned for Indian Armed Forces including some 50 for Indian Navy for Naval Strike and Interdiction.

However, the project got killed when Indian Air Force realized SU-30MKI can fill in the roles and there was actually no need for a Strategic Bomber since Bombers are hard to maintain and operate and they have become increasingly vulnerable to Air Defense assets.

Su-30MKI later was modified to carry out Strategic roles for Strategic Air Forces Command to deliver Nuclear Weapons and missiles like BrahMos deep inside enemy territory and SU-34 which is nothing but an “Up-Rated” and “Up-Armored” Flanker was effectively ruled out. SU-30MKI can well go upto 8000 kilometres with two air-to-air refuellings which shows that India did not actually need Fullbacks for heavy strike roles.

Rafales will be soon inducted in Indian Air Force into Strike Role which is much better than Su-34 thanks to its proven weapon systems ( don’t mistake that I’m saying Su-34 isn’t yet proven. It has proved its mettle in Syria ) , better self-protection measures ( thanks to SPECTRA ) and better sensors and radar systems. Also, one more reason not to induct Su-34 was the lack of after-sales support from Russia which India has been facing with its Russian aircraft like SU-30MKI and Mig-29. Su-34 had also hefty operating costs and is more expensive to maintain than Rafale.

This is enough, to sum up why India doesn’t buy Su-34 because though better in features and all, India has other aircraft which can fill in its role with almost similar effectiveness if not better.

B. Mig-31 Foxhound Interceptor Fighter Jet:

Mig-31 were once offered to Indian Air Force when India retired its MiG-25RB/RUs which Indian Air Force used extensively for ELINT and SIGINT Operations sometimes in Pakistan Airspace and Chinese Airspace also.

Now Mig-31 was more of a high-speed interceptor which is a deterrent against bombers and recon aircraft. Chinese Air Force ( PLAAF ) has a considerable arsenal of Bombers mainly H-5, H-6 and JH-7 with a stealth bomber in development. Pakistan Air Force has no bombers. But now bombers face a grave danger of being destroyed by long-range Surface-to-Air Missiles and therefore the strategic threat has moved to use of Ballistic Missiles than risk sending in heavy-weight bombers in enemy airspace. Interceptor Aircraft are particularly useless against Ballistic Missiles.

When Russia offered India its Mig-31, the Su-30MKI was introduced and IAF started on a requirement of a completely different weight class of aircraft and hence the possible induction of Mig-31 was overruled.

Also, IAF was wary of adopting any Russian platform since a visible lack of after-sales support has plagued the Mig-25 fleet of IAF and hence was retired.

Indian Air Force now mainly focuses on Unmanned Capabilities and entrusts the Satellite Imagery to keep a track of strategic installations in Pakistan and China rather than entrusting the task with a high-speed interceptor/recon aircraft like Mig-31.

C. F-104 Starfighter Fighter Aircraft:

After the 1962 disaster, Indian Air Force put up a demand for high-speed interceptor aircraft and after evaluation and much introspection, India decided to buy some F-104 Starfighter Aircrafts from the USA which was supplying the same aircraft to Pakistan Air Force. Indian Government showed confidence that after the Indo-China War, USA would help India build up its military against Chinese aggression but what came from the US Administration was a shocker.

The USA, instead of F-104, offered India some older F-4D Skyray Fighters, which it claimed is economically viable for a third-world country like India. Also, this proposal was deliberately put late and resulted in a shameful humiliation for the Indian side. However, India decided to hit back. It sealed a deal for Mig-21FL from Soviet Side in 1962 and deliveries were made in January 1963 as it entered with No.28 Squadron “First Supersonics”. In 1971 Indo-Pak War, eight squadrons of Mig-21 were fielded by IAF which shot down 4 F-104 used by Pakistan Air Force. Indian Air Force pilots thus outgunned the same fighter jets which were considered by Americans as too high-tech and expensive for Indians to fly.


D. Su-35 Flanker-E Air Superiority Multirole Fighter Aircraft:

Now, this is an interesting fighter since many think that after the success of Su-30MKI, India should have gone for Su-35. First of all, we need to understand that Su-30MKI filled in the niche for air superiority fighters which was more than satisfactory for IAF. Even though some 60 Su-35 ( with 40 further one ) were offered by Russia, India turned down the proposal as it was strengthened quite enough in Air Superiority aspect. What it wanted next was an Omnirole Medium-Combat Aircraft which can take on Strike roles as well in which Su-30MKI or Su-35 was severely lacking.

Indian Air Force also realized that it can bring on its Flankers to the level of Su-35 with the help of a Super Sukhoi upgrade which will add an AESA Radar, more advanced avionics and better weapons to it. The need for additional flankers when one type filled in all requirements, was effectively nullified. Also, PAK FA/FGFA was on cards then, hence India did not pay much attention to ordering further Flankers of another type.

E. Su-57 Multirole Fighter Jet Aircraft:

Su-57 was once on cards for Indian Air Force, as an ultra-modern Fifth Generation Stealth Aircraft which can augment Indian Air Force capabilities but sadly met a sorry end with the cancellation of the FGFA Deal. India and Russia decided to derive Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) from the Su-57/PAK FA Project for Indian Air Force with some 43 improvements to the original model. IAF had projected buying some 144 FGFA but the deal soon hit a roadblock on Transfer of Technology.

By media reports, the Russian side was demanding some $6 Billion for Technology Transfer which was regarded quite “expensive” by the Indian side. Indian Pilots were also not given access to the design and the Indian side was dissatisfied with Su-57 performance especially with regards to its questionable stealth characteristics. The delays and painful negotiations lead the Indian side to pull out of the project and leave HAL-DRDO with a burden to give Indian Air Force its first Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft: AMCA.



Harsh B Mishra is a writer on DefenceUpdate, he also loves to write on Quora. You can follow him on Quora for more interesting knowledge on special forces.


Source:- Harsh B Mishra Quora


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