Government approves 33 new fighter jets for IAF worth ₹38,900 crore


Ongoing tensions on the border with China, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Thursday approved deals worth ₹38,900 crore. This includes procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), upgrade of 59 of them and acquirement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.


The approvals come a week after Mr. Singh’s visit to Moscow for the Victory Day Parade, where he also held discussions on defence cooperation. On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on winning a nationwide vote on changes to the Russian Constitution. The referendum, conducted over the past week, allows Mr. Putin to serve as President for two more six-year terms after 2024, until 2036.


Other deals include Pinaka ammunition, armoured vehicle BMP armament upgrades and Software Defined Radio (SDR) for the Army, long range land attack missile (LRLAM) systems of over 1000 km range and Astra Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air to air missiles for the Navy and Air Force, all of which will be procured domestically and worth an estimated ₹31,130 crore.


The IAF currently has 30 fighter squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 42. It will start adding the first batch of Rafale multi-role jets this month-end. Another deal for 83 Light Combat Aircraft Mk-1A, estimated to cost ₹38,000 crore, is expected to be signed in the next two months.


The announcement of the clearance for Russian hardware and conversation between the leaders came amidst indications New Delhi and Moscow are cooperating more closely on strategic ties as a result of tensions with China at the LAC.


According to sources, Russia has “assured” India on all its requirements of defence supplies in the near future.


The sources said Russia also kept India apprised of its latest round of negotiations with the United States on nuclear arms control. The talks were held in Vienna last week to negotiate a new treaty, which could also place restrictions on China’s arsenal.


Besides Mr. Rajnath Singh’s Moscow visit, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also held trilateral talks with Russian and Chinese counterparts at Moscow’s request and the IAF has expressed satisfaction over the performance of the Astra BVR and was currently inducting the Astra Mk-I on its Sukhoi fleet.