India prepared to defeat any misadventure to defend our people and territorial integrity at all costs: Rajnath Singh

HAL awarded contract for 83 LCA fighters in ₹48,000 crore deal at the 13th edition of Aero India

“We have long witnessed unfortunate attempts to employ force to change status quo along our unresolved border and India is vigilant and prepared to counter and defeat any misadventure to defend our people and territorial integrity at all costs,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Wednesday at the inaugural event of the 13th edition of Aero India.

At the biennial air show, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was awarded the contract to manufacture 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas for the Indian Air Force (IAF) at an estimated cost of ₹48,000 crore.

“Our resolve towards this is shown by our growing defence capabilities…We plan to spend $130 bn on military modernisation in the next 7-8 year,” Mr. Singh said while making a pitch to global defence companies to set up manufacturing

India faced threats and challenges emanating from multiple fronts and India was a victim of state-sponsored terrorism which was now a global threat, he stated.

Defence Ministers conclave

Mr. Singh will be holding an Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Defence Ministers conclave during the show which has been restricted to three business days due to COVID-19 restrictions. “India has a vast coastline, but our interests also lie beyond our shores. It includes our people who reside and work across continents, especially in IOR. It is our bound duty to remain capable and willing to assist them in times of calamities and security challenges,” he said.

On the LCA contract, Mr. Singh said, “This contract is the biggest Make in India defence contract till date.” The contract includes 73 LCA Tejas Mk-1A fighter aircraft and 10 LCA Tejas Mk-1 trainer aircraft at a cost of ₹45,696 crore along with design and development of infrastructure sanctions worth ₹1,202 crore.

Deliveries would begin 36 months from the date of signing the contract and be completed in nine months from contract date. The HAL has already set up a second assembly line to ramp up production from eight aircraft per year to 16 aircraft per year. HAL officials said that a third assembly line could also be set up based on requirement.

The Mk-1A has significant capability additions over the current variants. It will have over 40 modifications over the Mk1 variant, including major ones like Electronic Warfare System, Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles and network warfare system, including Software Defined Radio (SDR). The modifications will be incorporated on the LCA concurrently along with the production.

For the Mk-1A, HAL has outsourced significant work share to the private industry while it acts as a ‘system of systems integrator’. The HAL has over 550 vendors for the LCA which includes five companies manufacturing the structures.

The IAF has ordered 40 LCA Tejas in two batches of 20 each in the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configurations and has raised two squadrons. Till date, 16 aircraft have been delivered to the IAF in IOC configuration which form the first squadron operationalised in July 2016. Delivery of the FOC aircraft has also commenced.

Air display

At the air display, HAL came up with an ‘Atmanirbhar’ formation consisting of HAL-built platforms LCA trainer, HTT-40 trainer, IJT, Advanced Hawk Mk-132 and Civil Dornier Do-228.

A highlight was a U.S. Air Force B-1B long range supersonic heavy bomber which flew over Yelahanka air base along with one LCA. A U.S. Embassy statement said that this was the first time a U.S. bomber aircraft had touched down in India.

In a first, the Surya Kiran aerobatic team and the Sarang helicopter display team of the IAF put up a combined performance.

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