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IAF chief contradicts CDS Rawat, says plan is to buy 114 foreign fighters besides LCA Tejas

CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat had said IAF was planning to buy the indigenous LCA Tejas instead of 114 ‘Make in India’ foreign jets.

Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, head of the Indian Air Force | Photo: ANI
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, chief of the Indian Air Force | File photo | ANI

New Delhi: Four days after Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat said the Indian Air Force was planning to switch over to the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ rather than pursue a global tender for 114 new fighter jets, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria has contradicted him.

Bhadauria said Monday that the list of aircraft planned to be inducted by the IAF includes 36 Rafales, 114 multirole fighter aircraft, 100 advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) and over 200 LCAs in different variants.

Rawat had told news agency Bloomberg last week that the IAF “is switching to the LCA” when asked about the global tender for jets.

“The IAF is saying, I would rather take the indigenous fighter, it is good,” he was quoted as saying.

The CDS’ words came as a setback for the likes of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Saab, who were in the race for the contract for 114 aircraft, which would be worth at least 15 billion dollars and would also entail technology transfer under ‘Make in India’.

However, IAF chief Bhadauria told news agency ANI Monday: “This project (114 jets) is in the middle-weight and is in the Rafale class, in this issue, we will deal with it in the Make in India region, with an increase in FDI, with support to the private sector. I think in future this will bring in technology which is required to support the aviation sector. I think it is important to have another generation of aircraft in terms of capability, technology as we go along (sic).”

Also read: Dassault, Boeing and Saab — the front-runners for IAF’s 114 fighter jet contract

Separate programmes

When the CDS had made his comments last week, they had come as a surprise to the Air Force and industry. Sources had explained to ThePrint that the 114 jets cannot be replaced by the 83 LCA as the two fighters are of different classes.

“The IAF projections take into account the 83 LCA Mk 1A, Rafale, the 114 foreign fighters under Make in India, and even the AMCA,” a source had said.

Another source, who was involved in the negotiations for 83 LCAs, said it was wrong to mix up two separate programmes.

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria also said his force is planning to acquire 450 fighter aircraft for deployment on the northern and western frontiers of the country over the next 35 years.

Regardless, the IAF will not reach its sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons by 2042, its projections have revealed.

The best-case scenario is if the force inducts the Tejas Mark 2, the AMCA and 114 fighter aircraft, for which a request for proposal is still awaited.

Also read: Why Air Force won’t be a part of India’s massive Covid evacuation for now