Air Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari says that the armed forces are planning to buy 500 fighter planes. It will take time to get to the 42 squadrons that have been approved, so the immediate goal is to stop the reduction in strength. By 2025, the IAF plans to get rid of the last three MIG-21 squadrons.
Soon, a long-delayed process to buy 114 multi-role fighter jets (MRFA) will begin. This, along with three different programs to build fighter jets in India, will lead to a process of buying 500 fighter planes for the military. This would stop the number of fighters in the Indian Air Force from going down and help it reach the authorized number of 42 squadrons.
“We hope that the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for MRFA will be issued in three to four months,” Air Marshal Narmdeshwar Tiwari, Deputy Chief of Air Force, said at Aero India. He said that it depends on the “budget” and how quickly the planes are available. The AoN will start the formal buying process, and then the IAF will send out the detailed RFP.
He said the process was delayed because they were figuring out how much Make in India localization. The ability to upgrade the planes locally instead of relying on foreign manufacturers could happen.
The IAF has only 31 fighter squadrons instead of the 42 that were supposed to be there. This number will go down even more when the last three MiG-21 squadrons are taken out of service in 2025. By the decade’s end, other planes would also be phased out.
Air Marshal Tiwari said that getting to 42 squadrons would take time and that the most important thing right now is to stop the strength loss. He also said that the 83 Light Combat Aircraft TEJAS-MK-1A will start arriving next year, followed by the TEJAS MK-2 and fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) in the near future, will stop this.
A Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) is also being planned for the aircraft carriers of the Navy. Dr. Girish S. Deodhare, who is in charge of the Defense Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), said that they are thinking about getting six squadrons of TEJAS MK-2 (108 planes), seven squadrons of AMCA (126 planes), and up to 100 TEDBF. Also, 83 TEJAS MK-1A and 114 MRFA would be given to the IAF.
Officials from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) also said they expect to get an order for up to 50 more TEJAS MK-1A. Also, the Navy will soon choose between the Boeing F/A-18-E/F Super Hornet and the Dassault Aviation Rafale for 26 multi-role aircraft.
Also, the final deal to buy 12 more Su-30MKIs to replace the ones lost in accidents and 21 MIG-29s from Russia has stalled. IAF and Russian officials said the deal is still on track but has been delayed.
Air Marshal Tiwari said that it would take 10–12 years to develop the AMCA, which is still waiting for approval from the government. After that, it would take another 3–5 years to start making it. The head of the company that is designing the plane, Dr. Deodhare, has also said that it will take 10 years to make the plane once the project is approved.
HAL says they are on track to give the IAF their first TEJAS MK-1A in February 2024. The Hindu reported that ADA officials said the TEJAS MK-2, which would be much more powerful than the TEJAS MK-1A, should be ready to make by 2027.
Navy Chief Adm. R. Hari Kumar said at Aero India that they could have as many as 45 TEDBF by 2040. Dr. Deodhare has said that the first flight of the TEDBF is expected to happen in 2026 and that it will be ready for production in 2031.