IAF Chief bets big on indigenous jets

The new Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria, today laid out a major indigenous plan that will involve quick induction of more variants of the Tejas fighter aircraft, designing and building of a new fifth generation fighter jet in India and getting the next lot of trainer aircraft from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Addressing media persons ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8, the IAF Chief who took over on September 30 said: “We are putting all efforts on AMCA (advanced medium combat aircraft) and have okayed the plan.” The AMCA is a fifth generation jet, which the DRDO is designing. 

The First Prototype Will Be Ready By 2025

Asked if the option of fifth generation jet like those in collaboration with Russia or other countries was being explored, the IAF Chief said: “No… the AMCA will be given priority.” On the threat of drones dropping arms in Punjab, the IAF Chief said: “It’s a new threat and it’s serious. We have some procurement in the pipeline to will deal with such drones.”

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria, a Tejas test pilot during the days of sanctions imposed by the US in 1998, said an order for 83 jets of the next generation Tejas Mark 1A will be placed soon. These will carry a more powerful engine along with better weaponry than Tejas Mark 1, the existing version, 40 of which are being made.

The cost negotiation committee will soon give its report, he said, adding if Tejas MK-2, also known as the medium weight fighter, is ready in a few years, these will be inducted.

“Indigenisation and modernisation will be the key pillars of the IAF… We have to ensure that indigenous products remain the focus and we will work to reduce dependency on foreign equipment,” said Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria.

On depleting fighter jet fleet, he said steps had been initiated to add 21 more MiG-29. The Sukhoi-30 will be upgraded for which the IAF had initiated the process. Process for acquiring 114 fighter jets was on, he said, while dismissing questions if 36 more Rafale jets are being purchased besides the 36 already on order. While engine upgrade of the Jaguar jets has been shelved, the Mi-17 and Mi-17 IV helicopters are being upgraded.