In a major development, India may scrap the procurement of 114 multi-medium combat aircraft under the project Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft 2.0. Battling the depleting strength of squadrons, the Indian Airforce had requested the government for procuring at least 126 combat jets way back in 2001. But due to multiple reasons, the project was significantly delayed and now with the struggling and financial implications of COVID-19 lockdown, India may decide against the project altogether.

As per a report in Bloomberg, the Indian Airforce will buy an additional 83 jets, apart from an earlier deal for 40 aircraft for $6 billion. On being asked about the global tenders for procuring jets, General Bipin Rawat responded, "The Indian Air Force is switching that to the LCA. The IAF is saying, I would rather take the indigenous fighter, it is good."

General Bipin Rawat
General Bipin Rawat after taking charge as the first Chief of Defence Staff.IANS

Setback for global defence manufacturers

In case the government goes ahead with the decision, it would be a huge setback for world's leading defence manufacturers including American companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russian Aircraft Corporation, Dassault of France, Swedish firm Saab and European consortium, Eurofighter GmbH who have already responded to "request for information" (RFI) issued by the IAF. The tender required these companies to manufacture at least 85% of total production.

Push to indigenous manufacturing: CDS Rawat

CDS Rawat further contended that the induction of indigenously manufactured jets will help India emerge as a net exporter of defence equipment due to its "relatively low price." He also said that many countries will also show their interest in purchasing Tejas aircraft once they see them in operation.

Rajnath Singh flies IAF Light Combat Aircraft Tejas
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gets ready to board the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas of the Air Force (IAF) at HAL airport in Bengaluru.IAF/twitter

Rawat also said that the decision is a major shift towards using indigenous fighters over foreign-manufactured fighters. "The artillery guns, air defense systems, and radars will all be indigenous systems as well. We are doing well with artillery guns and air defense systems. We are also looking at ammunition manufacturing in our country in a very big way," he said.

Tejas Light Combat Aircraft
Tejas fighter aircraft performs during Aero India 2019, at Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru . (ANI photo)ANI

In order to transform India into a manufacturing and design hub, the ambitious plan of 'Make in India' was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2014. 'Make in India' was a judicious response to the demanding situation but little has been achieved since then.