Make in India: IAF to acquire 114 fighter jets, 96 to be built in India

In a major push to India’s Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, the Indian Air Force is considering to acquire 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircrafts (MRFA), 96 of which will reportedly be built in India. Rest of the 18 fighter jets will be imported from the foreign vendor selected for the project. IAF will be acquiring these multirole fighter aircraft under the ‘buy global and make in India’ scheme under which enables Indian firms to collaborate with foreign vendors. Global aircraft manufacturing giants like Dassault Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, MiG, Saab, Irkut Corporation, etc. are expected to participate in the tender.

According to reports, after the first 18 jets get imported, the next 36 fighter aircrafts will be manufactured within the country, whereas payment would be done partially in foreign currency and Indian currency. Also, manufacturing of the rest 60 aircrafts will primarily be the responsibility of the Indian partner and the government will be paying only in the Indian currency. The payment that will be done in the Indian currency would help the vendors to achieve the over 60% ‘Make-in-India’ content in the project.

With countries around the globe ramping up the air defence ecosystem in order to get strategic advances over their enemy, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has also been putting aggressive efforts to bolster the air arsenal. The Indian Air Force will be relying a lot on these fighter aircrafts in order to enhance its air defence capabilities and maintaining its superiority over neighbouring rivals.

The 36 Rafale fighters aircrafts that India recently acquired from France have massively helped it in maintaining an edge over the Chinese during the Ladakh crisis (2020). However, more numbers would help India to put better defence mechanisms in place. The Ministry of Defence also signed an agreement with Airbus Defence and Space, Spain for acquiring 56 C-295MW transport aircraft for the Indian Air Force, induction of which will be a significant step towards modernisation of the transport fleet of the Air Force. Another massive ₹48,000 crore deal was made by the Indian government as it ordered 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas for the Indian Air Force from HAL in February last year. IAF had also signed a deal with with France to purchase 24 phased out Mirage-2000 fighter aircrafts to add to India’s air power.

Apart from fighter aircraft, the IAF is also set to acquire Akash missiles, manufactured by India’s manufacturers of ammunitions and missile systems Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). The ₹499 crore contract was signed by the two in July 2021. Under the ₹155 crore pact, the Indian Air Force is also scheduled to induct Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (CUAS) manufactured by Hyderabad-based Zen Technologies. This will be carried out in a 12-month time frame, and the technology will improve the IAF’s capabilities in the anti-drone space.

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