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IAF needs 200 new fighters but Modi govt has cut funds in Budget 2020

Nirmala Sitharaman marginally increased the capital budget of both the Navy and Army in the Union Budget 2020-21 announced Saturday.

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New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF), which plans to acquire 200 fighter aircraft amid its depleting strength, saw a drop in capital funds allocation in Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Union Budget 2020-21 against revised estimates for the current fiscal.

While Sitharaman had allocated Rs 39,302.64 crore for the IAF capital expenditure in her last budget in July 2019, it was increased to Rs 44,869.14 crore in the revised estimates for 2019-20.

On Saturday, Sitharaman, who has served as defence minister in the past, allocated Rs 43,281.91 crore for 2020-21 — a 3.5 per cent decrease from the revised estimates.

The move came despite the fact that the IAF’s committed liabilities — payments to be made for past orders — was around the same figure as the revised estimates, defence sources told ThePrint.

Even though the IAF officials put up a brave front saying the revised estimates for 2020-21 would be more, sources called the development saddening.

The Army and Navy were luckier with marginal increase in their outlay.

While the revised estimates for the Army was at Rs 29,666.90 crore this fiscal, the budgetary estimates for the next fiscal has been increased by 8.4 per cent to Rs 32,392.38 crore.

The Navy, which has been reeling under severe fund crunch, also saw a minor increase — the budget allocation for 2020-21 stood at Rs 26,688.28, a 2 per cent rise from the revised estimates of Rs 26,156.43 crore.

Also read: Only 1.82% hike in defence budget could hurt military acquisition & modernisation plans

‘200 aircraft to be bought’

Last month, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar had said that the government is in the process of acquiring around 200 aircraft to deal with the depleting aerial inventories of the IAF.

“Roughly (for) 200 aircraft, the acquisition is in process,” he said. “We are in the process of finalising the contract for 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark 1A, which are advanced fighters to meet the urgent needs of India.”

The IAF is also in the process of issuing a tender for 114 new fighter jets.

The Air Force is down to 28 fighter squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 42. Of this, about 10 squadrons are made up of the MiG-21 Bisons and Jaguars, which ideally should have been retired long ago.

The budget revision has come just a year after the IAF was outgunned and outmatched by Pakistan, which carried out a raid on 27 February 2019 targeting Indian military installations a day after the IAF’s Balakot airstrikes.

The IAF was mechanically outgunned by Pakistan with its superior fighters, missiles and the airborne early warning and control systems.

The force’s plans for more modern mid-air refuellers and replacement of the vintage Avro transport aircraft have also been stalled for now due to paucity of funds.

Also read: 15th Finance Commission to set up expert panel to look at roll-on fund, cess for defence


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  1. Counting on the goodwill of Pakistan and China? Lesson of 1962 debacle forgotten exactly 58 years later. Defence capex is lower than either annual salary bill or annual pension bill. We seem to have a bloated army and ex service men, by retiring soldiers in their 30s or 40s,

  2. PAF is superior to IAF and most other air forces is not because of aircraft…..rather because o fa simple fact.

    Best Pakistanis opt for PAF where as best of Indians opt for IT & software careers……………..simple as that !!1

  3. Modi ha tau mumkin ha .. India is in serious trouble under Modi leadership and they are facing embarrassment day by day. Just remember 27 feb 2019.

  4. IAF needs funds to buy new aircraft and technologies. FM should consider their logical demand. There is no point of talking about setting up Theatre commands if we can’t equip the IAF (and Navy) with modern weaponry. Earlier it is done, the better.

    • This can not be done. They do not have the money. India has been buying aircraft since 2002 or 2003. Issue is money? May be we need to borrow some from Pakistan. Can some body donate the aircraft? Ask China if they can donate some of the 5th generation aircrafts to India. Tell them we are big economy.

  5. With Modi’s raw wisdom, one aircraft becomes equal to 200. The IAF too works on his raw wisdom, so where is the problem?

  6. People knowing nothing about budget are doing analysis. How can I say this, because the article itself is saying that writer knows only figures. Quoting figures and understanding the nuances of budget are two different things. First of all budgetary provisions are symbolic figures under different sub heads, created for specific projects/programs, until you do the allocation. Yeah, it(available provisions) facilitate you in allocation but if there is shortage/unavailability of provisions you can ask for more on reasonable grounds.
    Secondly, acquisitions take lot of time, remember Rafale. Process for MMRCA started in 2007 and ended abruptly and concluded in 2015-16 via IGA. So, the 59000 crores weren’t actually needed in 2007 itself.
    Today, we need 200 aircrafts but these all are not coming in 2020-21.

    But, it is reality that there is financial crunch but not as analysed by this learned writer.

  7. We may need or want 200 or more fighters but this is just a wish list. The fact is that even if we have the funds of an Arab oil kingdom, we cannot get such items off the shelf. It takes months of manufacture and testing to build one advanced plane and even France can build just 8 Rafales per year. So, we have to plan only for induction of 16 LCA plus 6-8 Sukhoi plus 4-6 rafales per year. Our funds allocation has to just cover these 30-35 planes a year.There is no point in complaining of low allocation to IAF, because even if the allocations were higher, they simply won’t get the aircraft from anyone.

    • Now if 200 planes can’t be bought in one year or even 3 years, it makes sense at least to start the process of acquisition right away. Better to declare the intent to buy 200 planes albeit in a phased program of say 4 years. Commit some funds at least this year, say to acquire one squadron of new planes. But we must start somewhere. Why do we subject the IAF to risks as it is they who are going to defend the country and they must be equipped properly for this onerous task. That Wg Cdr Abhishek came back finally to India it was due to pressure from the world powers too on Pakistan. The moot point that is missing the attention of defence planners is why at all he was hit and had to evacuate the aircraft which is because of Pakistan’s superior planes hitting him. It is not desirable to take comfort in the thought that our pilots are more brave and daring including Abhishek. This approach is completely wrong as it is likely to subject the IAF pilots to vulnerable situations.

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