New Delhi: India’s defence procurement decision-makers are a confused lot. If one proposes, the other disposes, and the process of indecisiveness repeats itself for years, frustrating the acquisition plans.
In a sign of things to come, the Indian air force chief has contradicted Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat on the plans to procure 114 combat jets for the fighter fleet.
Just four days after Rawat was quoted by Bloomberg News that the Indian Air Force (IAF) will buy the indigenous ‘Tejas’ Light Combat Aircraft rather than pursue the global tender for 114 aircraft, Air Chief Marshal R. K. S. Bhaduria said the procurement of these new fighter planes was among the future plans for the combat jets fleet.
Bhadauria is said to have listed the 114 aircraft alongside the 36 Rafales and 100 Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (the futuristic AMCA) to be part of the IAF’s combat fleet in the years to come.
Of course, IAF will buy a total of 200 Tejas aircraft variants, Bhadauria was quoted by Asian News International (ANI) as saying.
But Tejas, a light-weight four-plus-generation aircraft, will clearly not be the alternative to the 114 combat jets that are basically replenishment for the Rafale-class of medium weight aircraft.
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi had in April 2015 surprised many geopolitical watchers by announcing that the IAF will get 36 Rafales, and soon after cancelled a previous 2007 tender for 126 medium-weight, multi-role aircraft, which Rafale had won.
“This project is in the middle-weight and is in the Rafale class, in this issue, we deal with it in the Make in India region, with an increase in FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), with support to the private sector,” Bhadauria said in that ANI interview published today.
American giants Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. are competing with French Dassault Aviation, Swedish SAAB AB, European Airbus Defence and Space, and Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG and JSC Aviation Holding Company Sukhoi through its export agency Rosoboronexport for the at least $15-billion tender for the 114 planes that IAF intends to buy in the near future.
“I think in future this will bring in technology which is required to support the aviation sector. I think it is important to have another generation of aircraft in terms of capability, technology as we go along.”
Among the other aircraft to form the future fleet, the Air Force chief said the AMCA will form part of six squadrons of about 100 planes, while Tejas aircraft in its Mk1, Mk1A and Mk2 configurations will be in the 200 aircraft range.
NOTE: Under the mandate and allocation of work of the Chief of Defence Staff and Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs, the four-star officer will be responsible for revenue procurement, while the capital procurement will continue to be routed by the army, navy and air force headquarters through the Defence Secretary in India’s Ministry of Defence. CDS will be the first among equals along with the army, navy and air force chiefs.