Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria on Friday strongly backed indigenous development of a fifth generation fighter jet and said the IAF was working on an ambitious modernisation plan to bolster its combat capability.
Addressing a press conference, Bhadauria said the plan includes induction of more Tejas and Sukhoi aircraft, integrating of indigenous ASTRA beyond visual range missile across platforms and upgrading the Jaguar jet fleet among others.
He said the issue of pricing of 83 Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has almost been finalised and the contract is likely to be signed soon.
Asked about IAF’s plan to acquire 114 fighter jets, he said leading aircraft manufacturers have responded to the initial tender and adequate priority is being given to expedite the acquisition process.
Last year, the IAF issued the initial tender known as the Request for Information to global aircraft companies to produce the jets in India along with an Indian firm.
On the fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), he said the IAF fully supports the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project of the HAL and that there was no plan to import any such jet.
“No plans for importing a fifth generation jet. The AMCA project is being given go ahead. We have given full support to it. The programme is taking off,” he said, in first clear view of the IAF on the project.
Last year, India conveyed to Russia its unwillingness to go ahead with the joint development of a FGFA primarily due to the high cost involved in the project.
The project was estimated at around USD 30 billion or Rs 2 lakh crore.
India and Russia had signed an inter-governmental agreement for the mega project in 2007, vowing to take the military ties between the two strategic partners to the next level.
However, the project has been stuck as there have been serious differences between the two sides on sharing the cost of developing the jet, technologies to be used in it and number of aircraft to be produced.
“The induction of new generation combat aircraft and lethal precision weapons will provide the IAF with an overwhelming offensive capability to deter and punish the enemy,” said the IAF chief.
He said to augment the strength of the fighter fleet, several steps have been initiated including mid-life upgrade of Mirage-2000, MiG-29, and Jaguar fighter jets.
“The MiG 29 upgrade programme is progressing. The Su30 MKI aircraft are also planned to be upgraded further enhancing its operational capability,” he said.
On helicopters, Bhadauria said the Mi-17 V5 are being modified while Mi-17 and Mi-17 1V chopper fleet is being upgraded with glass cockpits, avionics and electronic warfare suite.
“Our air defence network has also been strengthened by the induction and integration of modern sensors and weapon systems. We are progressively nearing our goal of establishing a robust network centric operations capability,” he said.