Asia Defense

India Orders 83 New Fighter Jets, 15 Helicopter Gunships, and 464 Tanks

India’s defense ministry also signed off on the purchase of 598 mini drones for the Indian Army.

India Orders 83 New Fighter Jets, 15 Helicopter Gunships, and 464 Tanks
Credit: wikimedia commons/Rinju 9

The Indian government this week has cleared the purchase of made-in-India military hardware including new military aircraft, unnamed aerial vehicles and tanks under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s so-called Make in India initiative, according to local media reports.

The Indian Ministry of Defense’s (MOD) Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar, signed off on the procurement of 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), 15 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), 464 T-90 M Bhishma main battle tanks (MBT), and 598 unmanned aerial vehicles, on November 7.

No contracts have been signed to date.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to induct a total of 120 Tejas LCA, a supersonic, single-seat, single-engine multi-role light fighter aircraft. As I reported elsewhere, the first twenty fighter jets are expected to enter service by 2018. In July, the IAF stood up its first Tejas LCA squadron, the Flying Tigers 45 LCA squadron, composed of two combat aircraft in Bengaluru. The LCA was specifically designed to replace the IAF’s aging fleet of MiG-21 and MiG-23 aircraft and has been under development by Aeronautical Development Agency in cooperation with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) since the 1980s.

India’s LCH is another military aircraft currently under development by HAL. The armored attack helicopter has been specifically designed for high altitude operations and high altitude warfare, similar to combat operations during the 1999 Kargil War. Four LCH prototypes are currently undergoing weapons integration. The Indian Army’s Army Aviation Corps (AAC) has plans to purchase 114 helicopters, whereas the IAF plans to 65. As I reported previously, HAL has already kicked off serial production of the LCH, although no contract has been concluded so far.

The T-90 M Bhishma is a licence-produced variant of the Russian T-90 MBT (in turn an upgraded variant of the older T-72 model). The Indian Army also operates an older T-90 export variant, the T-90S. India is operating 800-1,200 license-built T-90S Bhishma and T-90M MBTs divided up into about 13 tank regiments, depending on what sources are consulted. A May 2015 estimate by The Diplomat put the number closer to 500. India plans to field over 2,000 T-90 variants by 2020. The T-90 MBT will be manufactured by the state-owned Ordnance Factory Board and in the past been assembled at the Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), Avadi, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

It was not revealed what type of mini drone the Indian Army will procure.

Total acquisition cost will be roughly $10 billion, with $7.5 billion allocated for the Tejas LCA, $2.02 billion for the T-90s MBTs, and $436 million for the LCH. The cost for the mini UAVs was not publicized.