With plans to induct almost 400 different aircraft in the next decade, the Indian Air Force is all set to finalise a deal with the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 83 LCA Mk 1A and additional 12 Su 30 MKI from Russia. Also, order will be placed for more MiG-29 fighter aircraft from Russia. Outlining the modernisation plans and focus on indigenisation efforts of the IAF, on the eve of the 89th anniversary celebrations of the IAF, the IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said, “Around 400-450 indigenous aircraft of various types are to be inducted in the IAF in the next 10-15 years. By the end of the decade, the target is to have around 37-39 squadrons.”
Batting for indigenous fighters, the chief said “the immediate focus is on signing the contract for 83 LCA-Mk1A than the tender for 114 fighter aircraft. The mainstay of the IAF in the next decade would be the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).”
In line with `Atmanirbhar Bharat’ “We have placed our trust in the LCA and in the next five years the induction of 83 LCA Mk1A will start. Also, the IAF will soon be signing a contract for 106 HTT-40 and the LCH with HAL,” the chief added. The deal for the 83 LCA-Mk1A is expected to be firmed up by the year-end.
In June, the DAC headed by the defence Minister Rajnath Singh, had put its approval on the IAF’s wish list of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft from HAL, 21 MiG-29, and the up-gradation of existing 59 Mig-29 aircraft.
The approval given would help in further help in taking up the numbers of IAF’s dwindling fighter squadrons. As was reported by the Financial Express Online in July this year “The MiG-29, the upgrade of the existing MiG-29 which are already in service are going to cost around Rs 7418 crore, and the plans to buy new Su-30MKI (for approx Rs 10,730 crore).”
The procurement of the MiG-29 fighters and Su-30MKI has been under consideration for almost two years and the decision to sign the deal for these aircraft has been taken on priority bases in view of the ongoing tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.
Will India buy more French fighters?
Responding to the media questions, the IAF Chief did not comment on any immediate order for two more squadrons from French Dassault Aviation for the `Rafale’.
The Mid-life upgrades
These upgrades are expected to enhance the operational capability and also the overall operational potential of Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and Jaguar fleet.
Modernisation is going on and the focus is on the latest weapons, systems, sensors, and technologies.
LCA Mk 1A
The 83 indigenous fighters the IAF is planning to buy will include ten twin-seater version for the training purpose.
These aircraft will be fitted with GE-414 engines from America.
The Kaveri engine which was started for the indigenous fighters has been in the making for more than four decades and now will be used for powering the UAVs made in India.
These LCA aircraft will replace the MiG-21 Bison aircraft, which are being phased out gradually.
The aircraft is considered as four and a half-generation and has the capacity to be upgraded later.
It will come with mid-air refuelling, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
Also, there will be electronic warfare suites, and can be equipped with different types of weapons, missiles and bombs.
When will LCA Mark-2 and the AMCA be ready?
According to sources, the LCA Mark-2 is expected to be ready by 2023 and the first flight of AMCA is expected by 2032.