Days after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh wrapped up a visit to Russia amid the tense standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, the government Thursday cleared the purchase of new fighter aircraft, including 21 MiG-29 and 12 Su-30MKI, missiles, ammunition as part of a Rs 38,900-crore package to boost the combat capabilities of the armed forces.
Singh, who deferred a visit to Ladakh scheduled Friday, chaired a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) which approved the package, citing “the current situation” and the “need to strengthen” the armed forces “for the defence of our borders”, and in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “clarion call for Atmanirbhar Bharat”.
No reason was cited for the postponement of Singh’s visit to Ladakh nor a new date announced.
He was to be accompanied by Army chief General MM Naravane and Northern Army Commander Lt General YK Joshi. He was to conduct a review of the ground situation and meet Army commanders at the XIV Corps Headquarters in Leh.
The Ministry of Defence said the DAC, “addressing the long felt need of the IAF to increase its fighter squadrons… approved the proposal for procurement of 21 MIG-29 along with upgradation of existing 59 MIG-29 aircraft and procurement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft. While the MIG 29 procurement and upgradation from Russia is estimated to cost Rs 7,418 crore, the Su-30 MKI will be procured from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at an estimated cost of Rs 10,730 crore”.
“Focused on indigenous design and development, these approvals include acquisitions from Indian industry of Rs 31,130 crore. The equipment is going to be manufactured in India involving Indian defence industry with participation of several MSMEs as prime tier vendors. The indigenous content in some of these projects is up to 80 per cent of the project cost.”
“A large number of these projects have been made possible due to Transfer of Technology (ToT) by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to the indigenous industry. These include Pinaka ammunitions, BMP armament upgrades and software defined radios for the Indian Army, Long Range Land Attack Cruise Missile Systems and Astra Missiles for the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF). The cost of these design and development proposals is in the range of Rs 20,400 crore,” the Ministry said.
“Acquisition of new/additional missile systems will add to the fire power of three Services. While acquisition of Pinaka missile systems will enable raising additional regiments over and above the ones already inducted, addition of Long Range Land Attack Missile Systems having a firing range of 1,000 kilometres to the existing arsenal will bolster the attack capabilities of the Navy and the Air Force. Similarly, induction of Astra Missiles having Beyond Visual Range capability will serve as a force multiplier and immensely add to the strike capability of the Navy and Air Force,” it said.
The situation along the LAC in Ladakh remains tense, even after three rounds of discussions at the level of Corps Commanders, the most recent on Tuesday.
During the talks at Chushul between XIV Corps Commander Lt General Harinder Singh and South Xinjiang Military Region Commander Major General Liu Lin, both sides “emphasised the need for an expeditious, phased and step-wise de-escalation as a priority”. India is still waiting for China to take some steps on the ground in this regard.