Before Abhinandan Varthaman shot down an F-16 with a comparatively older Soviet aircraft, the Lockheed manufactured aircraft was considered one of the best air resources available to many militaries worldwide. Is it still the best among lot or Falcon should reconsider its manufacturing? The Pakistani Airforce operates America made F-16 as its go-to aircraft while India has started inducting indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft Tejas in its own fleet. The Indian Airforce had initially placed an order for 40 Tejas with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) which finally was extended as IAF issued the request for proposal (RFP) to HAL for the procurement of another batch of 83 Tejas at a cost of over Rs 50,000 crore.
To quote Rajnath Singh, who become India’s first Defence Minister to take flight in Tejas, “We have reached a level where we can export fighter planes across the world.” Righly so, India is set to take strides in defence exports courtesy Tejas, with nations like Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Egypt keen to get the Indian aircraft. The production of LCA Tejas started in 2014 and in 2016 only, Tejas was inducted into Flying Daggers Squadron of Indian Airforce while in the another five years, HAL has become capable enough to produce 8 aircraft per year. Recently, Tejas successfully performed ‘arrested landing’ in Goa. The testing is set to expedite the induction of Tejas in the Navy. The ability of an aircraft to come to a halt in a very short distance is required for operations on board an aircraft.
However, the Lockheed Martin-manufactured F-16 also present a strong case for itself and at times has proved itself as a reckoning weapon when it comes to air superiority. Amid a myth that its production is likely to be stopped, it becomes necessary to reveal that it guards the skies of more than two dozen nations and Falcon remains the backbone of US Air Force itself with 400 new aircraft in the production pipeline.
The F-16, to be precise, is a single-engine supersonic multirole fighter aircraft developed by American Defence Manufacturer Lockheed Martin. F-16 has an excellent kill record as for instance, the Israeli Air Force has used this to target adversaries both near its borders as well as destroyed enemies stationed in Tunisia and Iraq, reports Business Today. With almost 3,000 operational F-16s in service across 25 countries, F-16 has proved itself as a reliable weapon during exigencies.
Tejas, on the other hand, is a single-engine, delta-wing multi-role light fighter jet manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. One of the smallest and lightest multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft of its class, Tejas is set to replace the MiG-21s in the Indian Air Force. The tail-less compound delta-wing configuration with a single dorsal fin provides 'High alpha performance characteristics' to Tejas.
Both Tejas and F-16 are single-seater Aircraft with the former leading the latter as far as speed is concerned. Tejas can operate with a speed of 1,370 mph while F-16 can notch up to 1,317 mph. The indigenously built Tejas can fly up to a distance of 1,056 miles in a single go but F-16 can elongate its flight up to 2,622 miles, reports Military Factory.
India's Tejas can fly at 16,000 m above ground leading F-16 by almost 2,493 feet. Both Tejas and F-16 can shot air to air, air to surface missiles.
Moreover, IAF looks to get 110 more aircraft and if the deal gets done with the Lockheed Martin, it will dwarf the India-France Rafale deal and become India’s one of the largest defence procurements ever. The deal, as per media reports, will be of USD 15 billion.
Lockheed Martin appears keen to provide India with fighter jets and in order to do so, it might also transplant an entire aircraft ecosystem here.
Although, luring tactics of Lockheed Martin loom over, India should not allow its fleet to be outnumbered by Falcons. It rather needs to stick with the production of Tejas.