3 Mega Defence Projects Worth Rs 1.4 Lakh Crore
STORIES, ANALYSES, EXPERT VIEWS
India is set to give preliminary approval to three mega indigenous projects to manufacture another aircraft carrier, 97 more Tejas fighters and 156 Prachand light combat helicopters, which together will be worth around Rs 1.4 lakh crore.
The Rajnath Singh-led defence acquisitions council is likely to take up the “acceptance of necessity (AoN)” -- the first step in the procurement process -- for the three crucial projects at a meeting slated on November 30, sources told TOI Thursday.
Once the AoNs are accorded, the tendering and commercial negotiations will take place before the three deals are submitted to the cabinet committee on security for the final nod.
Strengthening operational military preparedness
All these projects, which will take several years to be executed, are critical for strengthening the country’s operational military preparedness in the backdrop of China’s expanding multi-domain warfare capabilities.
India’s own ‘Iron Dome’: DRDO’s long-range Air Defense Systems (LR-SAM) to be readied by 2028-2029
Tejas Mark-1A fighters: The 97 Tejas Mark-1A fighters, at a cost of around Rs 55,000 crore, will add to the 83 such jets already ordered under the Rs 46,898 crore contract inked with Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) in February 2021.
These 180 Tejas jets are critical for IAF to boost the number of its fighter squadrons, which is down to just 31 when at least 42 are required to tackle China and Pakistan. The first 83 Mark-1A jets are slated for delivery in the February 2024-February 2028 timeframe.
Second indigenous aircraft carrier: It will take 8-10 years for the second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), in turn, to be built at the Cochin Shipyard for around Rs 40,000 crore as a “repeat order” of the 44,000-tonne INS Vikrant or IAC-1.
INS Vikrant was commissioned in September 2022, after being built for around Rs 20,000 crore, but will be fully combat-ready only by mid-2024. The Navy also has the older Russian-origin carrier INS Vikramaditya, the refurbished Admiral Gorshkov inducted in November 2013 under a $2.33 billion deal with Russia.
The Navy initially wanted a nuclear-powered 65,000-tonne IAC-2, capable of carrying a larger aviation complement than the 30-aircraft capacity of INS Vikrant. But budgetary constraints have made it opt for a smaller electric-propulsion IAC-2.
China, incidentally, already operates two aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, and is fast building two more. The third Chinese carrier, the over 80,000-tonne Fujian, was `launched’ in June last year. The US, of course, has 11 `super’ 100,000-tonne nuclear-powered carriers, each of which carries 80-90 fighters and aircraft.
Marine fighter jets: The Navy currently has only 40 of the 45 MiG-29K jets, inducted from Russia for another $2 billion, to operate from carriers. The twin-engine deck-based fighter being developed by DRDO is likely to take at least a decade to become fully operational. In the interim, India is now finalizing the Rs 50,000 crore acquisition of 26 Rafale-Marine fighter jets from France.
Prachand helicopters: The 156 Prachand helicopters (90 for Army, 66 IAF), capable of offensive operations in high-altitude areas like Siachen Glacier and eastern Ladakh, in turn, will cost around Rs 45,000 crore.
They will add to the 15 such choppers (10 IAF and 15 Army) already inducted under the first Rs 3,887 crore contract in March last year. The need for a mountain warfare-capable chopper like the 5.8-tonne Prachand, which is armed with 20mm turret guns, 70mm rocket systems and air-to-air missiles, was first acutely felt during the 1999 Kargil conflict.