Indian Air Force Set to Purchase 83 More Tejas Jets Locally as Plan of a Global Deal Halts

The Indian Air Force plans to switch to the locally-manufactured Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas, two years after it floated a tender from international producers for 114 aircraft.

Bloomberg quoted Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat as saying that in order to replace the ageing fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF), 83 more jets will be bought from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The purchase, in addition to an earlier deal to buy 40 of the aircraft, will cost $6 billion, he said. Rawat maintained that the induction of the LCA into the IAF will help establish India as an important defense exporter due to the relatively low prices.

The move will be a milestone in India's bid to start using locally-made weapons, even though there will be some quality issues in the beginning, the CDS was quoted as saying.

In addition to the jets, artillery guns, air defence systems and radars will be indigenously produced as well, he said. “We are also looking at ammunition manufacturing in our country in a very big way," he added.

India had invited bids for the purchase of the 114 jets in 2018, which attracted offers from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Saab AB of Sweden worth $15 billion. This comes as a sign that the country seeks to abandon expensive defence purchases from abroad.

In 2015, the long-awaited order worth $11 billion for 126 Rafale jets from the French Dassault Aviation was scrapped.

The IAF has supported the program to induct indigenous fighter jets, but the process is riddled with glitches like faster delivery schedules and quality issues.

The 123 Tejas fighters are to be followed by the Mark-II variant which are medium weight fighters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that India will reduce its dependence on weapons made abroad. Earlier this week, he stressed on the need to buy local in order to give a push to an economy hard-struck by the Covid-19 pandemic.