New Delhi: India plans to switch to locally-made fighter jets, two years after asking global companies to submit proposals to supply 114 combat aircraft in the world’s biggest warplane contract. The country’s air force is finalizing plans to induct indigenously made Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas to boost the capability of its aging combat aircraft fleet, Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat said in an interview in New Delhi. It will buy an additional 83 jets, apart from an earlier deal for 40 aircraft, for $6 billion, he said.
“The Indian Air Force is switching that to the LCA,” Rawat said, when asked about the global tender for jets. “The IAF is saying, I would rather take the indigenous fighter, it is good.” The decision is a set back 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 defense purchases which have been plagued by bureaucratic delays and a funding crunch.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week stressed the need to buy locally made products to boost an economy battered by the Covid-19 outbreak. “Since it has been decided to go the indigenous route, the Ministry of Defence must ensure ramping up” capacity at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., the builder of the jet, said Manmohan Bahadur, additional director general at the New Delhi-based Centre for Airpower Studies. The induction of jets will help India emerge as a key defense exporter due to its “relatively low price,” Rawat said in his office in New Delhi. Several countries may be interested in purchasing the aircraft once they see them in operation with the airforce.