New Delhi: Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria, the new Indian Air Force chief, made a big push for ‘Make in India’ Friday as he ruled out the possibility of India opting for a foreign Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) or imported trainer.
Addressing a press conference, his first since taking over as IAF chief this week, Bhadauria also made it clear that the Indian air-to-air missile Astra — which has undergone several rounds of successful tests and is said to have a better range than the Russian R77 missiles used on board the Su-30 MKI — will be inducted across platforms.
“The IAF remains committed to indigenous development in consonance with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Prime Minister,” he said.
“I intend to carry forward this legacy and proactively ensure that indigenisation remains one of our main focus areas and, in times to come, indigenised equipment becomes our mainstay,” Bhadauria added.
Over the last year, he said, the IAF had inducted and promoted the indigenous development of aircraft, radars, missiles and other aviation equipment to achieve self-reliance and reduce dependency on foreign manufacturers.
“A few among these are the Light Combat Aircraft, additional Akash Missile System squadrons, Advanced Light Helicopter MK-IV, Light Combat Helicopter, Arudhra (medium power radar), Ashwini (low-level transportable radar), Astra and BrahMos missiles,” he said.
No foreign FGFA
Speaking about the FGFA programme, the IAF chief said the force was betting on an indigenous fighter initiative.
“There are no plans for a foreign FGFA now or in the foreseeable future,” he said. “The FGFA for the IAF will be the indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), for which work has already started.”
The Modi government had last year walked out of an inter-governmental agreement with Russia, signed in 2009, to jointly build an FGFA.
The government did not rule out “revisiting” the project at a later stage, should it meet IAF requirements, and Russia has been pushing to restart it. But the IAF chief’s comment suggests the project may now be a closed chapter.
Asked if the acquisition of a foreign FGFA was possible in case the AMCA gets delayed, the chief said, “We have to give priority to one project. For us, AMCA is the FGFA.”
He also said the IAF would go in for the Tejas Mark II, a home-built fighter, even as it pursues the AMCA, which is a separate programme and handled by a different team.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria also said the IAF will now go for state-owned Hindustan Aeronautical Limited’s trainer aircraft HTT-40, saying the order for 38 more Pilatus had been cancelled.
He added that the trainer is yet to clear some tests, but the IAF has decided to induct only the HTT-40.
Bhadauria, the 26th chief of the IAF, took over the reins from Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa this week following his retirement.