Clearing a long pending deal, the Defence Acquisition Council which met on Friday approved procurement of 12 SU-30MKI jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF). These will be license manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and cost under ₹11,000 crore. These will replace aircraft that have been lost over the years. The IAF has been pushing for additional Sukhois as well 21 Mig-29s to arrest its falling fighter strength before newer inductions come in.
The DAC cleared Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for nine capital acquisition proposals of the armed forces worth ₹45,000 crore.
During the meeting, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh stated that it is time to upgrade ambitions towards indigenisation, a Defence Ministry statement said. “Rather than a threshold of 50% indigenous content for Indian-Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) projects, we should aim for a minimum 60-65% indigenous content,” he said according to the statement.
Mr. Singh directed the Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs, Defence Secretary and Director General (Acquisition) to work towards increasing the minimum indigenous content threshold in consultation with Indian Industry.
For the Army, to enhance protection, mobility, attack capability and increased survivability of mechanised forces, DAC accorded AoN for procurement of Light Armoured Multipurpose Vehicles (LAMV) and Integrated Surveillance and Targeting System as well High Mobility Vehicle Gun Towing Vehicles for swift mobilisation and deployment of Artillery Guns and Radars. “The DAC also approved procurement of Next Generation Survey Vessels for the Indian Navy which will greatly enhance its capabilities in performing Hydrographic Operations,” the statement said.
Further, proposals of the IAF for which DAC has accorded AoN include avionic upgradation of Dornier aircraft to improve accuracy and reliability for operations. The procurement of Dhruvastra Short Range Air-to-Surface Missile as a potent indigenous precision guided weapon for the indigenously built Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) Mk-IV Helicopters has been cleared by the DAC, the statement added.
India has contracted 272 Su-30s from Russia in batches, majority of which were assembled in India by HAL and around 11 jets were lost over the years. The IAF has 12 Su-30 Squadrons in service, and anywhere between 40-50 aircraft are at HAL for overhaul and repairs at any given time, officials said.
Earlier, in July 2020, the DAC approved a proposal for procurement of 21 MIG-29 along with upgradation of existing 59 MIG-29 aircraft and procurement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft. However, officials said that proposal did not materialise and was delayed. The proposal has since been modified which has now been approved, officials said.
Purchase of these additional aircraft has been stuck for a while and was deferred in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. Even though the Su-30s are only to replace the lost ones and fill the numbers, with the ongoing war in Ukraine the Government was averse to clearing major defence deals with Russia, as reported by The Hindu earlier.
IAF’s reduced numbers
The IAF has an authorised strength of 42 fighter squadrons which currently stands at 31 squadrons.
A major upgrade plan for the Su-30MKI fleet has also been under discussion for a while. In the last 7-8 years, several steps have been taken to increase the serviceability rates of Russian equipment in use, especially the Su-30MKI fleet which constitutes a significant number of the IAF inventory. Part of the measures are long term spares and support agreements as well as joint ventures in India with Russian original equipment manufacturers for faster turnaround.