Amid the ongoing tensions on the border with China, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Thursday approved deals worth 38,900 crore. This includes procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), upgrade of 59 of them and acquirement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.
While both deals have been in the pipeline for sometime, the approvals come a week after Mr. Singhs visit to Moscow for the Victory Day Parade, where he also held discussions on defence cooperation.
Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on winning a nationwide vote on changes to the Russian Constitution. The referendum, conducted over the past week, allows Mr. Putin to serve as President for two more six-year terms after 2024, until 2036.
Other deals include Pinaka ammunition, armoured vehicle BMP armament upgrades and Software Defined Radio (SDR) for the Army, long range land attack missile (LRLAM) systems of over 1000 km range and Astra Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air to air missiles for the Navy and Air Force, all of which will be procured domestically and worth an estimated 31,130 crore.
While the MIG-29 procurement and upgrade from Russia is estimated to cost 7,418 crore, the Su-30 MKI will be procured from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at an estimated cost of 10,730 crore, the Defence Ministry said in a statement. This would shore up the squadron strength of the IAFs fighter fleet.
The 21 MiG-29s had been partially manufactured by Russia for an unfulfilled order and would now be upgraded and delivered to India. These would add to the three of their squadrons in service that were undergoing an upgrade. The 12 Su-30MKIs are meant to replace the aircraft that had crashed over the years.
India has in different batches contracted 272 Su-30s from Russia, majority of which have been licence manufactured by HAL.
The IAF currently has 30 fighter squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 42. It will start adding the first batch of Rafale multi-role jets this month-end. Another deal for 83 Light Combat Aircraft Mk-1A, estimated to cost 38,000 crore, is expected to be signed in the next two months.
Both leaders discussed Mr. Putins upcoming trip to India, expected in October, and the strategic partnership, according to releases from the Ministry of External Affairs and Kremlin.
The announcement of the clearance for Russian hardware and conversation between the leaders came amidst indications New Delhi and Moscow are cooperating more closely on strategic ties as a result of tensions with China at the LAC.
According to sources, Russia has assured India on all its requirements of defence supplies in the near future.
The sources said Russia also kept India apprised of its latest round of negotiations with the United States on nuclear arms control. The talks were held in Vienna last week to negotiate a new treaty, which could also place restrictions on Chinas arsenal.
Besides Mr. Rajnath Singhs Moscow visit, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also held trilateral talks with Russian and Chinese counterparts at Moscows request.
On the missile systems, the Defence Ministry said the acquisition of the Pinaka missile systems would enable raising additional regiments over and above the ones already inducted by the Army. Addition of LRLAMS to the existing arsenal would bolster the attack capabilities of the Navy and the Air Force, it added. Nirbhay, a sub-soniclong range land attack cruise missile with a range of over 1000 km, had been under development by the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) for sometime. The LRLACM will be an upgraded derivative of the Nirbhay, defence sources said.
The Ministry said deals other than fighters would be manufactured in India involving indigenous industry, with the several Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) as prime tier vendors for a large number of the projects involving transfer of technology by the DRDO, the statement said.
The IAF has expressed satisfaction over the performance of the Astra BVR and was currently inducting the Astra Mk-I on its Sukhoi fleet.
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria recently told The Hindu that they were looking to place orders for over 200 Astra Mk-1 missiles.