DesPardes + PKonweb

Post-Feb 27: India May Replace Its Russian-Made Missiles With Israeli

An analyst characterized the entire Pakistani motion on February 27 as a zero-to-60-seconds Formula One (F1) race with assured win.

DESPARDES — In two years from now, the Indian Air Force’s frontline Sukhoi-30 fighters may be re-armed with Israeli Derby air-to-air missiles after the jet’s Russian-made R-77 missiles were found wanting in air combat operations over the Line of Control on February 27 this year.

India lost one of its fighters to Pakistani jets– analysts say it was JF-17 Thunder that did it– a first for China-Pakistan multirole fighter’s kill in any battle.

India is said to have a fleet of over two hundred Sukhois, plus others. And Pakistan has a relatively smaller arsenal. Yet it has added an iota: surprise, (to quote ISPR’s Gen. Asif Ghafoor and some analysts)

According to National Interest, India is not happy what happened that day, specially with Russian-made missiles system.

In fact, it wants to replace these air-to-air missiles with Israeli weapons, says the article, citing a report by Indian news site NDTV.

During air battles along the Kashmir border on February 26 and 27, an Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21 was shot down by Pakistani fighters. Another (Sukhoi-30) crashed in Indian-Administered Kashmir’s Budgam area, according to a Pakistani defense official posted in the Middle East who spoke on condition of anonymity as he’s not authorized to comment.

India’s brass and South Block were embarrassed by the capture of the MiG-21’s pilot– later returned.

What troubles the Indian Air Force was that Pakistan was able to destroy Indian jets from long range. “Among the Indian Air Force’s fighters which were targeted were two Sukhoi-30s which managed to evade the Pakistani missiles.” These were fired at close to their maximum range of 100 kilometers [62 miles].. “Fully defensive and desperate to escape the incoming missiles, the IAF Sukhoi-30s escaped being shot down but were unable to retaliate because their own missiles, the Russian R-77s, did not have the range to realistically engage the Pakistani fighters. IAF sources told NDTV that the Russian missiles do not match its advertised range and cannot engage targets which are more than 80 kilometers [50 miles] away.”

Four surprises for Delhi that day were the biggest takeaways for Islamabad: Two Indian fighters shot down; one pilot captured; then returned; and lastly the perception that Islamabad stands for peace in the region. An analyst characterized the entire Pakistani motion on February 27 as a zero-to-60-seconds Formula One (F1) race for assured win.

For Modi, there was a win too– his poll strategy: he managed to win a second term as PM making his campaign’s ‘chowkidar’ battlecry national security albeit border-centric.

“The PAF surprised the IAF by launching air-to-air missiles from inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” said Sameer Joshi, a former Indian Air Force fighter pilot.

India is now looking to Israel, from whom it has purchased numerous weapons besides other defense and security assistance including counter-insurgency support in occupied Kashmir.

Strangely, while disparaging Russian missiles and buying Israeli ones, the Indian Air Force is reportedly ordering yet more Russian weapons, says the report. “Moscow is offering medium- and long-range versions of the underperforming R-77.”

According to NDTV, “In two years from now, the Indian Air Force’s frontline Sukhoi-30 fighters may be re-armed with Israeli Derby air-to-air missiles after the jet’s Russian-made R-77 missiles were found wanting in air combat operations over the Line of Control on February 27 this year.”

But that raises another question (read more below): how to integrate an Israeli missile into a Russian airframe (“and an ironic problem, given how much Russian-built planes have been destroyed by Israeli missiles”).

These planes also continue to face maintenance problems and a lack of spare parts, according to Defense News, with several crashes reported over the years, raising concerns in Delhi.

India is said to have a fleet of over two hundred Sukhois, plus others. And Pakistan has a relatively smaller arsenal. Yet, it has added an iota: surprise, (to quote ISPR’s Gen. Asif Ghafoor) and some analysts.

One Pakistani defense analyst weighed in India’s plan and Pakistan’s takeaways post-Feb 27 dogfight. He says:

1. Indians have messed up their developmental strategy big time, good for Pakistan.
2. With regards to IAF, they have committed/invested heavily into SU 30 MKI( SU 30 induction was initiated in 1995, total orders 272. 250 delivered and 30 still pending); acting over-smartly they decided to combine Russian aircraft with French, Israeli and domestics subsystems and avionics. The aircraft carries Russian weapons ( R73 and R77 primary air to air missiles).
3. The second largest component of their air inventory is Mig 21 Bison( one that Abhinandan was flying), a modernized version of Mig 21 carries the same air to air missiles.
4. R73/R77 were found woefully deficient on 27 Feb and now Indians are scrambling to make up these deficiencies. But it is easier said than done. Three main problems:- A). Integrating weapons with aerial platforms of different source has historically been troublesome and have mostly failed and illustrated by the experiment of SU 30 MKI. B). It will cost more money, as vendors sensing user desperation, may ask unrealistic amounts of money– Russians will surely do it. C). Such undertakings are time consuming and will take years with no assured outcome. Till then IAF will live with a sense of inferiority.
As mentioned above, SU 30 program was initiated 23 years back and is still not completed. Any replacement if today initiated, will take another 3 decades.
5. As I see today, IAF is stuck up with a large inventory of Russian origin aircraft and it will not be possible for India to replace them for decades.
6. Pakistan on other hand, by virtue of good luck, smart decision-making and desperation ( there were no options with PAF within the geopolitical and economic environment) chalked our a clear, simple and cost effective way forward and I would say to their luck, PAF struck a gold mine in the shape of JF 17. This aircraft, as being modernized from time to time, will shoulder bulk of  Air Defense requirements of Pakistan at a very affordable price.


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