Opinion | It’s a make-or-break phase for indigenous defence production
India has spent over $48 billion on importing major air warfare assets in last 2 decades
In the coming decade, the Indian armed forces are planning to acquire more than 500 aircraft and helicopters in different categories to sustain and bolster their capabilities. The aviation assets planned include combat aircraft, wide-bodied aircraft for transportation and surveillance, helicopters in light utility, attack, heavy-lift category and unmanned aerial vehicles, including combat aerial vehicles. The combat aircraft will replace the fleet of MiG 21 and MiG 27 that are being phased out and the current number is pegged at 114 in addition to 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The Indian Air force (IAF) has sought 56 light transport aircraft, additional AWACS and in-flight refueling aircraft. In the reconnaissance role, there is a case for additional 10 P8I for the Navy. In helicopters, besides already contracted Apache AH64E attack helicopters and heavy-lift helicopters CH47, a large number of light utility helicopters are required to replace the ageing Chetak/Cheetah/Cheetal helicopters in all three wings of the armed forces. A rough estimate of the cost of these aviation assets along with requisite support systems is about $90 billion; this presents an ideal opportunity to kick-start the Indian military aviation industry.