Vayushakti 2024: A chink in the armour of India’s defence potential?

Central to the Tejas’ effectiveness in combat is the seamless integration of new armaments, a task fraught with significant obstacles.

In a striking showcase of military prowess, the Vayushakti 2024 exercise recently illuminated unexpected setbacks within India’s defense arsenal, casting a spotlight on critical hurdles that demand immediate attention and resolution. The failures of the Akash and R73 missiles, integrated with the Tejas aircraft, have underscored pressing issues that threaten to compromise the nation’s defense capabilities.

As the crown jewel of the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the Akash surface-to-air missile system boasts formidable capabilities, designed to intercept and neutralize airborne threats with precision. However, its recent misfire during the Vayushakti exercise has ignited concerns regarding its reliability and performance. With open-source revelations citing a troubling 30% failure rate, scrutiny has intensified over the Akash’s efficacy on the modern battlefield.


Simultaneously, the R73 missile, renowned for its prowess in close-range air combat engagements, confronts its own set of challenges. Despite its operational range and heat-seeking capabilities, media reports and expert analyses have shed light on shortcomings, including outdated infrared seeker technology and limitations in maneuverability. Observations from conflict zones, notably the Russo-Ukraine War, have further exposed vulnerabilities in tracking and countering modern threats, raising doubts about the R73’s adaptability to evolving battle scenarios.

The failure of the Akash and R73 missiles integrated with Tejas during the Vayushakti 2024 exercise highlights glaring issues that demand urgent attention.

The R73 missile’s reliance on a non-imaging cryogenic cooled IR seeker, deemed outdated in comparison to the prevailing trend of Imaging Infrared seekers, presents a significant handicap. Additionally, its lack of thrust vectoring capabilities curtails maneuverability and agility, restricting its effectiveness in dynamic aerial engagements. With a limited launch off boresight capability, coupled with reports of diminished tracking capabilities through clouds in conflict zones, the R73 faces formidable challenges in countering modern threats, particularly those employing advanced ECM and countermeasures.

Similarly, the Akash missile program confronts a myriad of obstacles, ranging from radar and electronic control unit issues to sensor deficiencies. Notably, during actual tests, a troubling 43% failure rate in missile launches underscores substantial technical hurdles within the program. Despite numerous board meetings convened between 2019 and 2023, the persistent concerns surrounding the Akash missile program have yet to be effectively addressed or resolved, posing a significant risk to India’s defense capabilities.

India’s burgeoning defense exports to Armenia mark yet another milestone in the nation’s strategic partnerships, as indigenous anti-air systems join a growing list of military hardware exported to the Asian country. The forthcoming deliveries of the Akash anti-air systems, manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), underscore India’s expanding role as a key player in the global arms trade. With deals valued at an estimated ₹6,000 crores, India solidifies its position as a reliable supplier of cutting-edge defense technology, extending offers for export to other nations like Vietnam and the Philippines.

However, recent setbacks, such as the failure of the Akash missile during the Vayushakti 2024 exercise, raise concerns about potential impacts on future defense deals. While India’s defense exports hold immense promise, ensuring the reliability and performance of indigenous systems is paramount to maintaining credibility in the international market. Any perceived deficiencies in technology or performance may jeopardize future agreements, highlighting the need for rigorous quality control and ongoing technological advancements to address shortcomings.

HAL Heading Down?

Meanwhile, amidst India’s defense export successes, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) stands as a pivotal force in shaping the nation’s aerial prowess. With a storied history of manufacturing iconic aircraft, HAL plays a crucial role in bolstering the operational capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces. Yet, beneath its outward veneer of importance lies a narrative of untapped potential and systemic challenges.

HAL’s track record reflects an impressive lineage of aircraft production, from the venerable MiG-21 to the sophisticated Sukhoi-30. However, concerns persist regarding HAL’s ability to keep pace with rapid technological advancements and cultivate a skilled workforce capable of meeting future challenges. The absence of decisive leadership and strategic direction exacerbates these concerns, leaving HAL vulnerable to being outpaced by global competitors.

The ramifications of HAL’s stagnation reverberate throughout the Indian Air Force, where a lack of indigenous aircraft exacerbates existing challenges stemming from an insufficient fleet size. As geopolitical dynamics evolve and regional security imperatives shift, the need for a robust and self-reliant aerospace sector becomes increasingly evident. HAL’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances and embrace innovation will be critical in ensuring India’s aerospace industry remains competitive on the world stage.

LCA Tejas 

The Tejas aircraft, hailed as India’s pride in indigenous aviation, faces significant hurdles on its journey to establishing itself as a formidable contender in the realm of modern air combat. While the Tejas project represents a remarkable feat of engineering and innovation, persistent challenges in avionics integration, engine performance, and airframe structural integrity threaten to undermine its potential as a frontline fighter jet.

Central to the Tejas’ effectiveness in combat is the seamless integration of new armaments, a task fraught with significant obstacles. The complexity of avionics and software systems poses formidable challenges, hindering the aircraft’s readiness for combat and its ability to adapt to evolving threats in the dynamic field of air combat. Addressing these integration issues is imperative to ensure the Tejas remains agile and responsive in diverse operational scenarios.

Critical to the Tejas’ performance are its engine and airframe, which serve as the backbone of its capabilities. However, the GE F404-IN20 engine, while a technological marvel in its own right, has encountered setbacks such as overheating and mid-flight shutdowns. These issues not only impede the advancement of the Tejas program but also raise serious safety concerns during flight operations. Rectifying these engine-related challenges is paramount to enhancing the reliability and operational effectiveness of the Tejas aircraft.

Moreover, the structural integrity of the Tejas’ airframe, essential for its durability and longevity, has come under scrutiny due to observed deficiencies. These structural shortcomings not only disrupt the timeline of the Tejas program but also cast doubt on the aircraft’s ability to withstand high-stress environments characteristic of modern combat scenarios. Addressing these structural issues is crucial to bolstering confidence in the Tejas’ performance and ensuring its viability as a frontline fighter jet.