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India to reduce its jet fighter fleet

India is to reduce its armed forces and especially its fighter jet fleet as the equipment is getting older and lacks maintenance. In essence, some jets are falling out of the skies. Indeed, frustrated by long delays in replacing their growing stockpile of obsolescent equipment, India’s three armed service chiefs have been warning the government that procurement delays are compromising the country’s war preparedness, military sources have told The Hindu. The government, the sources said, was told the Air Force’s combat jet fleet would soon begin shrinking dangerously, even as the Army was short of tanks and artillery. The warnings come as Admiral D.K. Joshi, who resigned as Navy chief in the wake of an explosion on the INS Sindhuratna on Wenesday — one of several submarines refitted to serve beyond its design life, because of procurement and modernization delays in the navy. Facing severe budgetary constraints, New Delhi has moved to curtail military spending, freezing modernization expenditure for 2014-2015 — making it unlikely that major acquisitions will take place soon. The Indian Air Force estimates it needs 50 squadrons to fight a two-front war — the mandate the forces were given by Defence Minister A.K. Antony. The IAF air force has only 34 squadrons against the 42 it is sanctioned to operate. The six squadrons of ageing MiG-21s and two of MiG-27s will be phased out in 2018 — leaving in place six Jaguars squadrons, three MiG-29 squadrons, three Mirage 2000 squadrons and 14 Sukhoi Su-30 squadrons. India is expected to buy 126 Rafale medium combat jets from France, but it is uncertain when the contract will be signed. In the meanwhile, costs for the purchase have soared from the $10.6 billion estimated in 2007, to over $25 billion. Even if the contract is signed in 2015, the first aircraft will not become available until 2018. Former air force chief N.A.K. Browne had warned, in in December, that delays beyond March, 2017, could compromise the air force’s combat capability.

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