India will stagger the purchase of new foreign fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), General Bipin Rawat said as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) looks to also boost the domestic manufacturing industry.
“You should not go in for large numbers. Staggered acquisitions are important because when small orders are placed, it gives us time to take care of their downtime and also allow modernisation of the three services simultaneously,” he said. The IAF is planning to acquire 110 new fighter jets.
However, a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) for the mega deal, valued at over USD 15 billion, is yet to be issued. The IAF has new budgetary constraints given that it saw a drop in its capital funds allocation in the latest Union Budget.
The IAF is considering proposals for Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, Boeing’s F/A 18, Lockheed Martin’s F-21, the Eurofighter Typhoon, SAAB’s Gripen E, and the Russian MiG-35 and Su-35.
Make In India push
CDS Gen Rawat said that it is important for defence services to accept an indigenous product over a foreign-made one even if it meets only 70-80 per cent of the required parameters as contracts bind the forces for years.
“It is important to hand-hold the domestic industry. Upgrades can come like Mark 1, 2 or 3,” he said. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have already begin work on Tejas Mark II.
The CDS explained that by placing large orders with foreign companies, forces can’t switch to the domestic industry that may be capable of making the same technology a few years after a contract is finalised.
“Why do you think only 36 Rafales were bought,” Gen Rawat said, citing the deal as an example. On whether this meant that more Rafales could be bought, the CDS said everything depended on what requirements need to be met at the time.
Gen Rawat’s comments come at a time the IAF is set to place an order with the state-run HAL for 83 Tejas Mark 1 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).