With the deal for 83 LCA Tejas Mark 1A aircraft set to be signed during upcoming Aero India, the Indian Air Force is now looking to focus on the multirole fighter aircraft project under which it is planning to acquire 114 combat aircraft expected to cost over ₹1.3 lakh crore.
The Air Force had been undertaking one fighter aircraft project at a time and now its 83 LCA Mark 1A fighters have been cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ₹50,000 crore deal is set to be signed in Bengaluru during Aero India.
“The 83 LCA Tejas would be replacing the four squadrons of the MiG-21 fighter jets which are set to be phased out in near future. The focus would now be on the 114 fighter jets project,” government sources told ANI.
The IAF has already issued the Request for Information for the tender and would be soon moving a proposal for getting the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) before the Defence Ministry for the multi-billion dollar project which would enable it to acquire 4.5 plus generation aircraft in large numbers to match the capabilities of the Omni role Rafale fighters 36 of which have started getting inducted from last year.
The Request for Information (RFI) has been responded to by several global players including fighter jet manufacturers from the US, France, Russia and Sweden.
While the Americans are offering from the F-15 Strike Eagle, F-18 Super Hornet and an F-16 variant by the name of F-21, the Russians are likely to offer the MiG-35 and a Sukhoi fighter. Sweden’s Saab is looking to pitch in with its Gripen fighter aircraft which it says is far more advanced than the one which was offered in 2007 to the Indian Air Force. France would be participating in the tender with the Rafale fighter jets.
Recently, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria had termed the Rafale as one of the strong contenders for the 114 fighter acquisition project.
Sources said that for selection in the project, the main aspects would be the capabilities of the aircraft on offer along with the price at which it is offered. The Indian Air Force is also developing the parameters on which it will select the fighters which would be both single-engine and double-engine and would create a level-playing field for them in the competition.
Whichever aircraft is selected by the Air Force would remain the mainstay of the force for almost next four decades and would be required to be fully integrated with the Su-30MKI fighters which would be the mainstay in terms of numbers as 272 of them would be inducted by next year.
The 114 aircraft would also be Made in India and the foreign firms would be required to do a transfer of technology to the Indian partner as part of government’s initiative to create a strong domestic defence industry under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme.
Lagging behind the neighbours in terms of fighter aircraft inductions, the Indian Air Force has got deals for 119 of them in the last four years. While in September 2016, it signed a deal for 36 Rafale fighters, it would be signing the deal with a Public Sector Undertaking in next few days for 83 LCA Mark 1A Tejas fighters. In recent times, it has also operationalised two squadrons of the LCA Tejas mark 1.