March 8, 2014: India imports most of its warplanes. Efforts to develop an Indian capability to develop and manufacture these aircraft has so far failed. Worse, the most numerous type of combat aircraft, the MiG-21, is being retired because of old age and the fact that even when new the MiG-21 was dangerous to fly. India had planned to buy 126 “light fighters” to replace the MiGs but that effort has come undone by several factors.
First, there’s the growing anti-corruption effort. This has stalled the selection of what aircraft to buy. Then there is the decline in the value of the rupee (by 25 percent in the last two years). That was caused by mismanagement of the economy by politicians printing more money to try and stay in office. Thus despite the government pledging to spend $100 billion by 2025 to expand and upgrade the armed forces (especially the air force and navy) there is now less cash and more red tape in the way of getting the air force the desperately needed new fighters.
The original plan was for the air force to have 52 fighter squadrons by 2025, up from the 42 now and those squadrons would be equipped with more modern and capable aircraft. At the moment it looks like the air force will only have 26 squadrons by 2018 and no one is sure how much that will increase between then and 2025.
The navy is having similar problems, although the construction of warships in India is already happening and fewer and fewer warships are being imported. At the moment the local warship building capability is not expected to increase sufficiently to update and expand the fleet, especially the submarine force. So the declining value of the rupee and corruption fears is limiting fleet expansion as well.
The army requires less cash than the navy and air force, but the anti-corruption efforts and shrinking value of the rupee is hurting the army as well. While India manufactures trucks, tanks and most weapons they still have to import artillery. That effort has been stalled for over a decade and the current artillery is getting older and less reliable.