A couple of Days after CDS Bipin Rawat said the Indian Air Force was planning to switch over to the locally built TEJAS fighter over purchase of 114 fighter jets from overseas vendors, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria has surprisingly contradicted him.

Bhadauria said on Monday that the list of aircraft planned to be inducted by the IAF includes 36 Rafales, 114 multi-role fighter aircraft, 100 advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) and over 200 TEJAS fighters in different variants.

Rawat, however, had told news agency Bloomberg last week that the IAF “is switching to the LCA” when asked about the global tender for jets. “The IAF is switching that to the LCA saying, I would rather take the indigenous fighter, it is good,” he noted.

"In the next 15 years, 83 LCAs are our primary focus, after that TEJAS Mark-2 will come in we are looking at close to 100 of those, that makes it near 200 of TEJAS class," Bhadauria told ANI in an interview.

The decision seemed like a major setback for the likes of Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Saab AB who were in the race for the $15 billion order and another sign that India is abandoning costly foreign defence purchases which have been plagued by bureaucratic delays and a funding crunch. Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed last week the need to buy locally made products to boost an economy battered by the COVID-19 outbreak.

On plans to acquire 114 multi-role fighter aircraft, the IAF Chief said, "this project is in the middle-weight and is in the Rafale class, in this issue, we will deal with it in the Make in India region, with an increase in FDI, with support to the private sector. I think in future this will bring in technology which is required to support the aviation sector. I think it is important to have another generation of aircraft in terms of capability, technology as we go along."Squadrons of Combat Aircraft in view of phasing out of the MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighters planes.

The government has to come out with a clarification on the confusion that is prevailing in the acquisition of these crucial fighter jets for the IAF. The buying process has taken way too long to complete, unlike the previous regime's policy paralysis, there was high expectation among defence analysts and the armed forces that Modi will expedite the process in a quicker fashion, but alas, this is not to be and the sluggishness continues. Whatever may be the compelling reasons, the govt must ensure the forces are adequately equipped and mere glib talk will not suffice to protect the nation against our belligerent adversaries.

Even after Rafale and other inductions, IAF will have only half of 42-squadron target by 2042.

Our Bureau