The Rajnath Singh-led defence acquisitions council also accorded the acceptance of necessity (AoN) for 400 new towed artillery gun systems for Rs 9,900 crore to replace old Indian field guns and two types of Pinaka `area denial munitions’ for the Army.The Navy, in turn, will get 450 lightweight medium range anti-ship missiles as “a primary offensive weapon” for frontline warships at a cost of about Rs 8,400 crore.
All these approvals, of course, are just the first step in the long procurement process, which finally have to be cleared by the cabinet committee on security before the actual contracts can be inked. “Of the 22 proposals granted AoNs, acquisitions worth Rs 2.2 lakh crore (98%) will be sourced from domestic industries,” a MoD official said.
India clears biggest ever defence deal, set to buy 97 LCA Tejas fighters, upgrade 94 Su-30s
The main takeaway was the huge orders for defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). They included the nod for 97 more 4.5-generation Tejas Mark-1A fighters for Rs 67,000 crore and 156 Prachand helicopters (90 for Army, 66 IAF) for Rs 53,000 crore. TOI was the first to report on November 24 that these two mega projects were on the DAC’s agenda.
HAL will also upgrade 84 of the existing 260 Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKI fighters in the IAF combat fleet, with indigenously-designed weapons, radars, avionics, communications and electronic warfare systems, at a cost of around Rs 63,000 crore. With the total cost including that for the design and development phase, the upgrade of these 84 Sukhois will take around a decade.
The AoN for the second indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-2), which will 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, will be taken up at the next DAC meeting.
The 97 Tejas Mark-1A fighters will add to the 83 such multi-role jets already ordered under the Rs 46,898 crore contract inked with HAL in February 2021. Under the first-ever Rs 8,802 crore contract for 40 Tejas Mark-1 jets, HAL was supposed to complete deliveries by December 2016.
But only 32 single-seat fighters and two of the eight twin-seat trainers have been delivered so far. HAL will need to majorly crank up its annual production rate to deliver the 83 improved Tejas Mark-1A jets in the February 2024-February 2028 timeframe as promised. They will now be followed by another 97 jets.
The 156 Prachand helicopters, capable of offensive operations in high-altitude areas like Siachen Glacier and eastern Ladakh, in turn, will add to the 15 such choppers (10 IAF and 15 Army) already inducted under the first Rs 3,887 crore contract inked 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.
The AoNs also included 1.15 lakh “nubless projectiles” for 155mm artillery guns to enhance their lethality as well as automatic target trackers and digital basaltic computers to boost the capabilities of the T-90S main-battle tanks of the Army.
The DAC also accorded approval for a major amendment in the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) of 2020, under which now a minimum 50% of indigenous content in the form of material, components and software has to be ensured in all categories of procurement cases.