Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari announced that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is contemplating the acquisition of military assets, equipment, and technology worth an estimated Rs 2.5 to Rs 3 lakh crore over the forthcoming seven to eight years. During a press briefing preceding the 91st Air Force Day celebration on October 8th, the Chief of Air Staff disclosed the IAF’s commitment to moving forward with the procurement of an additional 97 Light Combat Aircraft Tejas Mark 1A, with an approximate expenditure of Rs 67,000 crore.
The procurement initiative will supplement the existing contract for 83 advanced fighter aircraft, increasing the total count of LCA Mark 1A planes in the fleet to 180. This acquisition will entail an expenditure of Rs 1.15 lakh crore for the 180 aircraft, with the Mark-II version expected to be ready by 2025.
The Indian Air Force’s decision to acquire additional LCA Mark 1A aircraft is crucial to its ongoing modernisation efforts. These efforts are geared towards enhancing operational capabilities and gaining a decisive advantage in the ever-evolving regional landscape.
Expanding on the modernisation plans and the emphasis on indigenous technology, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari mentioned that both the Army and the Air Force are exploring the possibility of signing a contract for 156 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) Prachand in the upcoming year. Out of these, 66 helicopters will be allocated to the Air Force. Additionally, there are plans to procure 70 indigenous basic trainer aircraft HTT-40 at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore.
“The contract value we anticipate is Rs 45,000 crore. Apart from that, we had already signed a Rs 6,000-crore contract for 70 HTT-40 trainer aircraft.,” he said.
The weapons systems Akash-NG, medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM), air defence system Pusa, Project Khusha to make an indigenous S-400 type air defence system, and ballistic missile system Pralav are among the contracts that the IAF is expecting to sign in the coming year, he said.
“The overall value of these contracts will be well past Rs 2.5 lakh crore-Rs 3 lakh crore. Contracts will be expected to be fulfilled in about seven to eight years. So we will plan our budget accordingly,” the Air Chief said, noting that most of the acquisitions were indigenous.
According to the Air Chief Marshal, the IAF will phase out its ageing MiG-21 fighter aircraft by 2025, with a gradual transition to the more advanced and capable LCA Tejas.
“In another month or so, one MiG-21 squadron will be retired, with the last one following suit after that,” Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said. Incidentally, the iconic aircraft that heralded the jet era in the IAF will make its last formation flight at Prayagraj at the fly-past on Air Force Day.
The Air Chief also revealed plans for an extensive upgrade project valued at Rs 60,000 crore to enhance the Su 30MKI fleet. This comprehensive overhaul will encompass all aspects of the fighter jets, excluding the airframe and engines. The upgrade initiative will bring new avionics, radar systems, and electronic warfare (EW) suites. In its initial phase, approximately 100 of these fighter aircraft will undergo these enhancements, all of which will be carried out within India. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will take the lead in this upgrade endeavour in partnership with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and other collaborators. Notably, this upgrade is expected to substantially augment the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capabilities of the Su 30MKI fleet.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has initiated a Mountain Radar project to address surveillance gaps along the Himalayan border, where the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has established a more extensive network of radars, sensors, and air defence systems. “When strategically positioned, our mountain radars will provide deep visibility into enemy territory,” noted Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari.
As part of the Mountain Radar project, the Indian Air Force intends to acquire additional transportable, lightweight indigenous radars and high-powered radar systems. However, progress in acquiring 114 multi-role fighter aircraft has been slow. Nonetheless, steps have been taken to replace the ageing IL-76 fleet by the end of this decade.
Acknowledging delays in receiving the S-400 air defence systems from Russia due to the Ukraine conflict, the Air Chief mentioned that three regiments have been delivered and expressed confidence that the remaining two will arrive next year.
IAF is constantly monitoring situation along LAC
The Air Chief also highlighted the Indian Air Force’s ongoing vigilance regarding China’s military infrastructure and the deployment of air assets along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The IAF employs intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) mechanisms to assess the evolving situation, enabling the IAF to adapt its operational strategies accordingly.
“We closely monitor the accumulation of resources and capabilities along our borders. Our operational strategies are highly adaptable and responsive to the developing situation on any front,” he explained. He added, “So, in situations where we may not have numerical superiority or match the adversary’s strength, we will counter it through superior tactics and enhanced training.” He emphasized that the IAF maintains a flexible and dynamic approach to asset deployment, avoiding rigid mindsets. The force continually updates its war plans based on ISR intelligence to address emerging threats effectively.