Sandeep Dikshit

New Delhi: India will purchase 40 Sukhoi fighter aircraft from Russia to make up for the depletion of its squadron strength. With an indigenous fighter plane still in the early stages of development and the MiG-21 aircraft being gradually retired, the Defence Acquisition Council, headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, has cleared an Indian Air Force proposal to import aircraft to fill the gap. The proposal will have to be vetted by the Finance Ministry and cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

India also plans to buy 126 multi-role combat aircraft, for which the tenders are still being processed. The import will shore up the IAF's squadron strength, that is expected to dip to a low of 29 in the Eleventh Plan (2007-12).

The Government has already approved the plan to modernise the IAF's fighter planes at a cost of around Rs. 20,000 crore.