Defence Ministry gears for talks on 97 TEJAS MK-1A jets and indigenous Su-30MKI upgrade valued at ₹1.3 lakh crore

The Defence Ministry is preparing for discussions on two ‘colossal’ fighter aircraft projects, collectively valued at Rs 1.3 lakh crore. These projects involve the procurement of 97 new TEJAS MK-1A fighter aircraft and the indigenous upgrade of 84 Su-30 MKI combat planes.

Scheduled for a crucial meeting this week, sources within the defence establishment revealed, "The projects are scheduled to come up for discussion at the Defence Ministry meeting scheduled on November 30."

Highlighting the strategic significance of the projects, sources emphasised that the procurement of 97 TEJAS MK-1A aircraft is crucial for maintaining India's fighter aircraft manufacturing ecosystem, especially due to the depleting squadron strength as the Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to replace its ageing interceptors like the MiG-21 fleet.

The discussion on these projects is set to take place at the Defence Acquisition Council meeting, scheduled concurrently. Notably, the Indian Air Force has already placed an order for 83 TEJAS MK-1A fighter planes, with deliveries anticipated to commence in early 2024. The projected value of the 97 aircraft is estimated to hover around Rs 65,000 crore, marking it as the largest fighter aircraft deal in India's history.

The Awaited Su-30MKI Upgrade

Equally important is the long impending Su-30MKI fighter aircraft upgrade program, a colossal move envisioned to be executed entirely indigenously. Valued at approximately Rs 64,000 crores, as per sources, this initiative will witness Hindustan Aeronautics Limited spearheading the comprehensive design and development work. The project entails equipping the Su-30 MKI fleet with the newer Virupaksha Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars alongside integrating Indian weapons, sensors, and radar systems onto the Russian-origin planes.

The Su-30 fighter jets currently constitute a pivotal segment of the Indian Air Force's fleet, with 260 already in service. This fleet upgrade is envisaged to augment the capabilities of these jets, simultaneously positioning them as a prospective option for export, particularly to nations in Southeast Asia and Africa operating similar aircraft.

Navy Gears For 2nd Indigenous Carrier

Simultaneously, the government is set to give affirmative consideration to the Indian Navy's proposal for the construction of a second aircraft carrier, IAC II, amounting to around Rs 40,000 crore. This decision gains prominence against the backdrop of escalating concerns regarding China's expanding presence in the Indian Ocean region.

Signifying a move towards augmenting indigenous defence capabilities, the Defence Procurement Board has now granted its in-principle approval for the IAC-II construction. The proposal is slated to be presented before the Defence Acquisition Council for examination.