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IAF to procure additional batch of 97 Tejas Mark-1A jets: Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari

Indian Air Force's (IAF) LCA Tejas fighters fly past in a formation during an air show, in Bhopal, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023. A PTI photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): The Indian Air Force is in the process of finalising a Rs 1.15 lakh crore deal to procure an additional batch of 97 Tejas Mark-1A aircraft besides upgrading 84 Sukhoi-30MKI jets at a cost of Rs 60,000 crore, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari has said.

In February 2021, the defence ministry sealed a Rs 48,000-crore deal with state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd for the procurement of 83 Tejas MK-1A jets for the IAF.

With the additional 97 Tejas Mark-1A jets, the total number of indigenously-developed aircraft being procured by the IAF would go up to 180.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8, the Chief of Air Staff also said that 84 Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets will be upgraded at a cost of a little over Rs 60,000 crore.

The defence ministry is also looking at signing a contract with the HAL next year to procure a total of 156 light combat helicopters (LCH) out of which 66 will be for the IAF.

The IAF now operates 10 light combat helicopters.

"We had signed the contract for 83 LCA-Mark 1As. What we are looking at is now to supplement that contract with 97 additional aircraft.

"So it will bring the total to about 180 LCA-Mark-1As. The contract value will be a little over 1.15 lakh crores," Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said.

Asked about the timeline for delivery of the LCA Mark-1As as HAL can produce only 15 of them annually, he indicated that the aerospace major may increase the pace of production in partnership with the private sector.

"The contract will be signed with the HAL for an additional 97 LCA Mark-1As. The HAL may decide to increase the number of production lines in partnership with the Indian private industry... That is yet to be decided," he said.

The Chief of Air Staff said the number of LCA-Mark-1A jets being procured is not linked to future procurement of Tejas Mark-2 Light Combat Aircraft.

The highly anticipated Tejas Mark2 aircraft is expected to be ready for the first flight by 2025.

"When it comes to the numbers (of Tejas Mark-1As), these are not in the view of any Mark 2s or any other future production. These are independent. These are to cater for the drawdown in the MiG-21 fleet," Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said.

Tejas is a single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-threat air environments.

It has been designed to undertake the air defence, maritime reconnaissance and strike roles.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said the IAF is also finalising procurement of Akash weapon systems, medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM), 'Pralay' missile system among others.

"We are planning to sign these contracts sometime in the coming year," he said.

The IAF Chief said except for the tanker aircraft and multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) project, most of the cases of acquisition are going to be indigenous only.

He also underlined the importance of the space domain.

"Space operations will find many similarities to air operations as compared to operations in any other domain. Freedom to operate in space without interference from the adversary is of vital national importance," he said.

"A strong, self-reliant, and credible aerospace force would definitely be an essential step towards achieving first of the Five Prans (Panch Pranas) of Amritkaal that is 'to become a developed country'," the IAF Chief added.

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