Do you see Su-30MKI, Rafale, and LCATejas still serving India in the 2040s?
Indian Air Force has a long history of using Aircraft well past their age, with all the Mid-Life Upgrade Packages at play, so it would be no heresy to claim that some of the Aircrafts, currently serving with Indian Air Force, will be continuing well past their Service Life and even beyond that.
There are particular reasons why Su-30MKI, Rafale and Tejas will be serving Indian Air Force in 2040s and even till 2050s when the Fifth Generation Combat Aircrafts will be the norm and the first prototypes for Sixth Generation Aircrafts will be rolling into production. Indian Air Force inducted Mig-21 in the early 1960s, a few time before the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War and the Mig-21 has been serving the Indian Air Force now for more than Five Decades. How does this come at play now?
The one reason why the Indian Air Force has never managed to reach its maximum potential is the bureaucracy around Arms Procurement that comes to play and the messy world of corruption and inefficient that plagues such deals. This has led to Indian Air Force, resorting to other means to keep the Aircrafts, combat-ready and worthy to fly. Mig-21 upgrades came in form of a “Bison” upgrade that upgraded it with a glass cockpit, radar warning receiver, and a helmet-mounted display. The whole Mig-21 Bison upgrade came to play because the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Program was extensively delayed by HAL and there was no stopgap measure for Indian Air Force.
Coming onto the three aircraft in the question, many of them have been inducted quite recently. Su-30MKI was inducted only in 2000 and in its time, it was the most advanced aircraft, both in Within Visual Range (WVR) and Beyond Visual Range (BVR). In DACT Exercises, Su-30MKI maintained this superiority over other aircraft in IAF Inventory like Mirage-2000 where it had a kill ratio of 1.41:1 in BVR and 1.94:1 in WVR. Su-30MKI is also seeing a Mid-Life Upgrade coming in the form of a “Super Sukhoi” upgrade about which I have detailed in my previous answer.
Super Sukhoi will add a modern Avionics Suite and new sensors and propulsion mechanisms including a new X-Band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar which is a cut-above compared to the PESA Radar. All this will make Super Sukhoi far superior to any 4.5 or 4++ Generation Fighter Aircrafts, and fit for Combat in a Fifth Generation Combat Region with 101KS-V Infrared Search and Track System which can track Fifth Generation Aircrafts.
Dassault Rafale is a new addition to the Combat Punch for Indian Air Force and it will be interesting to see whether the capability of Rafale Squadrons is coupled with their strength, or the Indian Air Force has plans to utilize this as a Strategic Asset. Rafale will be serving with French Air Force well up to 2070s, as the primary Combat Aircraft which will be almost 8 Decades after its first flight.
Last year, in January, Dassault presented the all-new F4 Upgrade for Rafale which will add the concept of a Networked Fighting Capability banking on Sensor Fusion with a wide array of strategic assets like Satellites, Drones and more. And it would be interesting to see these upgrades coming with IAF Rafales as well since France is considered the most reliable strategic partner of India. This will make Rafale, one of the most Combat-Ready Aircraft for Indian Air Force that will be serving even beyond the time when Su-30MKI or comparable aircraft in IAF inventory start to retire.
Tejas is a new addition to Indian Air Force, and it was created a stop-gap measure to fill in the demands of more Combat Ready Platforms with Indian Air Force. While no more than 6 Squadrons of Tejas MK.1 and MK.1A will be serving with Indian Air Force, but the all-new Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) whose design is based off the studies on Tejas and will be a replacement for Mirage-2000 and Mig-29.
With time, as new home-grown technology will arise, these will be subjected to Mid-Life Upgrades and they will be combat fit as Force Multipliers even beyond their age. But the main question arises now: Will they be fit for combat against Fifth Generation and Sixth Generation Aircrafts?
Though we have few decades to wait for a Sixth Generation Aircraft to roll into production, they can still put their hold in a Fifth Generation Combat. Normally, Fifth Generation Combat banks upon Sensor Fusion, use of stealth and Beyond Visual Range Combat. Many of these upgrades are aimed to add similar features to combat stealth effectively. With AMCA that will be inducted in the 2030s, these Aircraft will be serving as Force Multipliers where they can keep the Combat Effectiveness at a sky-high and keep the serviceability Rates to the bare minimum level r
Image Credits:- Abhishek
Source:- Quora Harsh Mishra