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Amid LAC stand-off, India approves purchase of fighter jets, missiles worth Rs 38,900 crore | India News

NEW DELHI: With India prepared for the long haul in the border confrontation with China, the defence ministry on Thursday approved several capital procurement projects worth Rs 38,900 crore. They include 33 new fighter jets, 300 long-range land-attack cruise missiles and 250 air-to-air missiles.
The projects will take at least two to three years, if not more, to translate into actual inductions into the armed forces but they signal the government’s renewed thrust on building military capabilities for the two active borders with China and Pakistan despite budgetary constraints.
The defence acquisitions council (DAC), chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh, approved procurement of 21 more MiG-29s and 12 Sukhoi-30 MKIsfrom Russia. The 21 MiG-29s, along with a further upgrade of 59 such jets already with IAF to “ensure similar standards across the fleet”, will cost Rs 7,418 crore.
The 12 additional Sukhois to be licensed produced by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics, along with upgraded electronic warfare suites and additional supplies and spares for the fleet, in turn will come for Rs 10,730 crore.
Among the projects approved by the DAC, induction of the Astra beyond visual range air-to-air missiles will probably be the fastest. With all its developmental trials over, IAF can begin to induct the 250 Astra missiles to arm its Sukhoi fighters from next year onwards. The DRDO is also working to increase Astra’s strike range from the existing 110-km to over 160-km.
Another big takeaway from the DAC was the approval for the eventual induction of over 300 land-attack cruise missiles with a strike range of over 1,000-km. But it will take two to three years for developmental trials of this advanced version of the Nirbhay (fearless) missile, which was first successfully tested in 2017, to be completed, said sources.
This new cruise missile, designed to fly at low-altitudes to evade enemy radars and missile defence systems, will be the longest range conventional missile in the arsenal of the armed forces. The existing precision-strike BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles have a range of 300-km, which is now being extended to around 500-km.
“Astra, software-defined radio, Pinaka munitions and the land-attack cruise missiles are state of the art systems developed indigenously by us,” said DRDO chief G Satheesh Reddy.
TOI had reported in February last year that the procurement of the 33 additional fighters – the 21 MiG-29 airframes are lying in a mothballed condition in Russia – was being finalized by the IAF. The force has so far inducted over 250 Sukhois of the 272 originally contracted from Russia for well over $12 billion, with the bulk of them rolling out of HAL facilities.
Both MiG-29s and Sukhois are currently deployed at forward air bases along the Line of Actual Control due to the ongoing military face-off with China. The progressive induction of 36 French Rafales from next month onwards will of course be a tremendous operational boost for IAF, which is grappling with just 30 squadrons (each has 16 to 18 jets) when at least 42 are required to handle the collusive China-Pakistan threat.

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