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Powering Military Combat Capability

Major boost for India's military capability as the defence landscape is set for a paradigm shift with mega deals on the horizon

December 11, 2023 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB, X / SpokespersonMoD, X / indiannavy, Wikipedia / FlyingDaggers45SQUADRON, SP Guide Pubns / Karthik Kumar, X / Boeing India
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes sortie on IAF multirole fighter jet Tejas on November 25, 2023

The Indian Military can look forward to a big boost in combat capabilities in the coming years, with three mega defence deals in the offing worth over 1.4 lakh crore awaiting the approval of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. These include the second indigenous aircraft carrier, 97 more Tejas fighters and 156 'Prachand' light combat helicopters (LCH). After the DAC accords the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN), the tendering and commercial negotiations will take place before the three deals are submitted for final approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).


The full details of the second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) have been published in these columns elsewhere. These include the repeat order of IAC-1 for the IAC-2 with certain improvements, as well as the plans for the third indigenous aircraft carrier IAC-3.

India anticipates a significant enhancement in its military capabilities with defence deals worth over 1.4 lakh crore awaiting approval from the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC).The procurement includes a second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), 97 Tejas Mk1/1A fighters, and 156 'Prachand' light combat helicopters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently flew in the LCA Tejas Mk2 fighter jet. However, the 97 more fighter jets for which AoN from the DAC is awaited will be the Tejas Mk1/1A. On August 22, 2023, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari had said that deliveries of Tejas Mark-1 have been completed. These additional 97 Tejas fighter jets are additional demands projected by the IAF in 2021. The delivery of these fighter jets would reportedly be spread over the next 4-5 years after the CCS gives the final nod for the procurement.

'Prachand' light combat helicopters (LCH)

The IAF would have preferred the LCA Tejas Mk2 but the phasing out of the MiG-21 fighters, which will be followed by the MiG-29, Jaguar and the Mirage 2000 in that order, leaves the IAF no other options. Looking at the Chinese airpower some analysts say that even 4.5 generation fighter jets fighting 5th generation fighter jets is not a comfortable situation. According to a recent Pentagon report, about 1,300 of the 1,900 fighter jets of the PLA's Air Force (PLAAF) are 4th generation or more. The J-20 and FC-31/J-21 are considered 5th generation. In February 2023, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) shared its 6th generation fighter concept on social media, which shocked the US.

In October 2023, the IAF phased out one more squadron of MiG-21, leaving only two MiG-21 squadrons operational. According to the media, the IAF may be down to just 29-30 squadrons a mix of Su-30 MKI, which makes up the largest numbers, Jaguar upgrade, Mirage 2000, MiG-29 and the newly acquired Rafale fighter jets.

IAC Vikrant

The 126 indigenous stealth fifth-generation advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) to be developed and manufactured indigenously is yet to take off. The IAF is launching a "second upgrade" of the MiG-29 aircraft which otherwise were to retire in 2027 with the first upgrade. Hence, the IAF has begun deploying its existing holdings of LCA Tejas fighter jets at the frontline.

Despite a preference for LCA Tejas Mk2, the Indian Air Force is awaiting approval for 97 Tejas Mk1/1A fighters due to the phased retirement of older MiG-21, MiG-29, Jaguar, and Mirage 2000 aircraft

News reports of November 24, 2023 said that the IAF is actively involved in developing an indigenous jammer pod for the indigenous Tejas Mk1A fighter aircraft. As per the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the indigenous electronic counter measures (ECM) suite, which transcends jamming to provide comprehensive electronic support for future combat scenarios, is nearing operational readiness.

Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)

DRDO sources say the Consortium for Advanced Systems Development and Integration Centre (CASDIC) in Bangalore and the Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL) in Hyderabad have collaborated on a joint venture to develop a new Electronic Warfare (EW) suite specifically for the LCA Tejas Mk1A. This EW Suite comprises a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) system along with an Advanced Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ) Pod, engineered to bolster the Tejas Mk1A against a spectrum of potential threats.

The deal to procure the 156 indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) 'Prachand' is to cost around 45,000 crore. Of these, 90 are for the Army and 66 for the IAF. Procurement action will begin once the CCS accords final approval. Meanwhile, the Army is gearing up to induct the first lot of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from February 2024 onwards, with their deployment in the desert sector.

India plans to acquire 156 indigenous Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) named 'Prachand' at a cost of around 45,000 crore, with 90 allocated for the Army and 66 for the Indian Air Force

Earlier, the CCS had sanctioned procurement of 39 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the US. The IAF inducted 22 Apaches under a deal signed in September 2015. However, with the decision to slash down imports, a fresh deal for six more Apaches for the Army costing around $800 million was signed in February 2020. The first Apache attack helicopter is scheduled to be delivered in February 2024. As part of the deal, six pilots and 24 technicians were trained by Boeing in the US. Delivery of all six Apaches is scheduled to be completed by April 2024.

AH-64 Apache attack helicopters

The Army has been pushing the case for 11 more Apache helicopters. However, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has ordered a study for the overall number of attack helicopters required by the Army, following which a decision for additional Apache helicopters will be taken. The Army currently operates 75 Rudra helicopters, which are the armed version of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).