Hello defence lovers! Amidst tensions on the LAC, all the three services of the Indian armed forces are undergoing rapid modernization. In this article, we are going to discuss how the Indian Airforce would look like in 2040 that is the next 20 years. We would discuss the future fighter aircraft, helicopters, transports, UAVs, and many unforeseen technologies.
Since the Indian army was formed before the Indian airforce, we recommend you to read the modernization plan of the Indian army first “How Does The Indian Army Will look Like In 2030?”
The armed forces are being modernised at a rapid pace. The creation of theatre commands is a very important step to deal with the emerging threats. In near future, we might see that the resources of all the three services may be merged for better efficiency. However, there is little difference of opinion among the services on the creation of theatre commands which is required to be addressed.
In the future, we might see the increasing role of artificial intelligence in command and control roles. Unmanned aerial vehicles are going to be a crucial part of all the air forces around the globe in the future. Thus AI will play an equally important role in operating these unmanned vehicles.
In the next 20 years, we can say India will become completely self-reliant in terms of fighter aircraft. Looking at the pace of work and the support from the government and the Airforce, it seems that the projects which are in the pipeline will hit production as per schedule. Several Indigenous platforms are in the development phase.
However many current aircraft in the IAF’s fleet will be retired by then. The Mig 29 UPGs, Jaguars, and Mirage 2000 will be retired by then. We will only see the Su 30 MKI, Rafale, and Tejas from the current fleet of IAF.
Now let us discuss which fighter jets are expected to join the IAF in the coming 20 years.
Tejas has already been inducted into IAF. IAF will start receiving the MK1A variants from 2023 and the complete order of Tejas is expected to be completed by 2028 if everything goes well. 83 MK1A Tejas are on order out of which 73 are single-seat versions and the rest 10 aircraft are twin-seat trainer versions. 40 Tejas Mk1 are on order out of which around 20 jets have been already delivered to IAF. The first 16 fighters have been inducted into the No 45 “Flying Daggers” Squadron and the rest have been inducted into No. 18 “flying Bullets” Squadron.
Tejas MK II
Tejas MK II is expected to complete its maiden flight in 2023. According to HAL, the production will start in 2026. However, it will be surprising if HAL achieves the claimed timeline. IAF intends to procure 200 of these fighters as it is going to fill up the numbers required by the IAF. It will be interesting to see what quantity government clears for procurement. We can expect the order to complete by 2035.
Advanced Multi-role combat aircraft or AMCA is the upcoming 5.5 generation fighter of IAF. It is expected to perform its first flight by 2030 and the mass production must begin by 2035. So by 2040, we will see at least a few active squadrons of AMCA. It will become the next backbone of IAF.
Also Read, Understanding The AMCA Programme: Part 1
As of now, IAF is planning to procure Airbus c295 only. These will replace the HS 748 Avro medium transport aircraft and the Antonov An 32. Airbus C 295 is a versatile platform and can perform a variety of tasks. As of now, IAF intends to procure 60 such aircraft whose deal is expected to be finalized within the next few years.
By 2040 all the Cheetah and Chetak helicopters will be retired from service. The Mi 17 will also start retiring by them. Many new helicopters will join the IAF’s fleet to fill this gap.
The Kamov 226 is seen as the replacement for the Cheetah and Chetak. We have already discussed the requirement of the helicopter in detail in the above post. The armed forces have already approached the government for a fast-tracked procurement of these Kamov helicopters. HAL LUH is also expected to be procured in significant numbers. HAL Medium lift helicopter will replace the existing fleet mog Mi 17 V5 helicopters. It will be indigenously developed by HAL and have the same capabilities as Mi 17 V5.
IAF has previously lacked the Gunships in its fleet. But now Being AH 64 Apache has been inducted into IAF’s fleet. Previously IAF used to operate some Mi 24 attack helicopters but they were not proper gunships. Now HAL is developing Light Combat helicopters which will have dedicated attack roles. HAL is ready to deliver 3 LCH to IAF soon. Both the Indian airforce and Army will procure LCH in significant numbers.
At present India has a shortage of Basic trainers. IAF is currently looking forward to leasing some turboprop trainers for the time being. In the coming 20 years, we will see two indigenous trainers entering service. one is the HTT 40 which is a basic trainer aircraft, and the other one is HJT 36 which is a advanced trainer like BAE Hawk.
UAVs are the future of aerial warfare. As of now, India has only UAVs which are only capable of reconnaissance. In the future, we can expect two UCAVs to join the service. The first one is going to be indigenous AURA. And the second one is Predator UCAV. by 2040 India will operate significant numbers of UCAVs. India’s Rustom II is also likely to be armed with weapons in the coming future. IAF has to adopt all the modern technologies to deal with the rising threats. UCAV is one such technology.
We will see many new weapons in the upcoming years. The most significant of these will be the Astra family of weapons. Astra Mk II will be inducted into service in the coming 2 to 3 years. The Astra Mk III, the indigenous variant of Meteor will take some more time to enter the service. We might see some IIR Short-range versions of Astra as well. By 2040, almost all the Fighters of IAF will have Astra as the primary weapon.
We might see some directed energy weapons such as high power lasers and EMP devices on board the fighter jets as well as ground air defence systems. In the future saturation drone attacks are going to be a huge threat. We saw the trailer on the Jammu Airbase. Now imagine a situation where thousands of such drones attacking and saturating the air defence systems. We need directed Energy weapons having hard kill and soft kill capabilities to deal with this threat.
Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) is an advanced futuristic air warfare system. It is being developed by HAL in collaboration with New space Research and Technologies, a budding start-up. It is the same start-up that has developed swarm drones for the Indian Army. We have already covered it in detail.
By 2040 the Indian Airforce will become almost self-reliant in every aspect. We will be producing all the required platforms in our country. In this way, a strong aerospace manufacturing ecosystem will develop in our country. By 2040 we will also be exporting many of these indigenous platforms. Over the years we have gained significant which will be beneficial in the process. All we need is support from IAF and the government for indigenous platforms like they are giving now.