The Indian Air Force is set to procure 21 MiG-29s and 12 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets from Russia. This development comes after the Indian Air Force signed a mega-deal to acquire 83 Tejas LCA.
According to The Times of India, the request for proposal (RFP) for 21 MiG-29 fighter jets would soon be issued to Russian state-run defense export agency Rosoboronexport.
The report has come days after the Modi government approved the acquisition of 83 indigenous Tejas fighter jets. The Indian Defense Ministry in July 2020 had approved the long-pending procurement worth around $5.2 billion for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Army.
The Defence Acquisition Council under the chairmanship of minister Rajnath Singh had also approved the purchase of 21 MiG-29s along with the upgrade of 59 existing MiG-29 aircraft as well as the procurement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.
The defense ministry had said that procuring and upgrading MiG-29s from Russia would cost Rs 7418 crore ($991 million) and the Su-30 MKI will be procured from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at an estimated cost of Rs 10,730 crore ($1.43 billion).
India and Russia have been negotiating the purchase of MiG-29 and Su-30MKI aircraft since 2019 when the Indian Air Force (IAF) team had visited a Russian facility to check the MiG-29 fighter jets and later submitted a favorable report to the IAF headquarters.
The Indian Air Force has been facing a shortage of fighter jets since its old fleet of aircraft retired. The acquisition of MiG-29s would add to the fleet of 59 such jets with IAF. The 12 Sukhois would add to the 272 jets contracted for about $15 billion. At present, India has about 260 of these jets.
The Indian Air Force is down to about 30 squadrons (with 16-18 jets) when it requires about 42 squadrons to face a two-front war with Pakistan and China. The said acquisition was approved after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash with the Chinese PLA in Eastern Ladakh on June 15 last year.
India has ramped up its defense purchases since the beginning of the military stand-off in May 2020.
The report suggests that the Indian Air Force will accord acceptance of the necessity for 114 new fighter jets under ‘Make in India’ at the cost of $20 billion. The deal will come under a strategic partnership policy.
If India goes ahead with it, Rafale is likely to remain a popular choice. As per the reports, Dassault Aviation has been looking to invest in India.
Media reports had suggested, Emmanuel Bonne, Diplomatic Advisor to the French President, during his visit to India earlier this month, had pitched the French government’s offer for local manufacturing of the fighter jets. The sources had said they would be interested if the number is closer to 100.