The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to get a major makeover with the addition of French Rafale fighter jets, 83 indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, and 114 new medium range multi-role aircraft to its fleet in the coming years.
US-built heavy lift Chinook and the advanced multi-role Apache attack helicopters have already been added to the IAF fleet, and are expected to make their debut at the Air Force Day show at the Hindon Air Force Station on Tuesday. In addition, the IAF is set to take delivery of the first batch of the S-400 Russian air defence systems between 2020 and 2024.
As for a fifth generation stealth fighter aircraft, IAF chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said on Friday that India had no plans for imports right now and would be looking at the indigenous advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) to meet that requirement.
“For the fifth generation, the Indian programme AMCA has already been initiated. That has been given the go-ahead. We have been given full support. That programme is taking off. That is where we are putting our energies in," Bhadauria said. There are “no plans" to import “as yet" and “not for the foreseeable future", Bhadauria told reporters in New Delhi ahead of the 87th raising day of the IAF on 8 October.
The AMCA is currently in “detail design phase" and is expected to be completed by 2021, according to news reports. It is to be built with a yet-to-be selected strategic partner—a foreign equipment manufacturer that will make 114 fighter jets under the strategic partnership model.
The new acquisitions and inductions at the IAF come against the backdrop of heightened tensions with Pakistan and China, which has been rapidly modernizing its military.
Asked about India’s preparedness to fight a two-front war with the IAF’s strength falling to 30-odd squadrons against a projected strength of 42, Bhadauria said: “Our plan for building up, you are already aware (of)—83 LCAs are already ordered, we should be signing the contract very soon, 114 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), 36 Rafale have already joined in, we are going to go in for 21 Mig-29s, so this is the current plan."
Other steps to maintain fleet readiness include mid-life upgradation of the Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and Jaguar, which was “already under way", the IAF chief said. “The MiG-29 upgrade programme is progressing. The Su-30 MKI aircraft are also planned to be upgraded further enhancing its operational capability," he added.