From fighter jets to Transport aircraft: New weapons of Indian Airforce

The defence ministry is expected to sign a deal for the 83 LCA Mk 1 A around next month when India’s air show Aero India takes off in Bengaluru.

The Ministry of Defence has listed procurement of C-295 transport aircraft from Airbus through Make in India, along with the Tejas Mk 1-A, indigenous Light Combat Helicopter and upgraded Heron drones from Israel, as the major deals that are to be inked in 2021.

While both C-295 and Tejas deals have been pending for long, the ministry in its annual report said both deals will be inked in the near future.

Tejas MK-1A
Tejas MK-1A

On the Tejas deal, it said the case for procurement of advanced 83 LCA Mk 1A from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is at final stage of approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and contract is “likely to be signed soon”.

It is expected that the deal will be signed around next month when India’s air show — Aero India — takes off in Bengaluru.

“Case of procurement of 56 C-295 from M/s Airbus with participation of an Indian Production Agency for manufacture of 40 aircraft (out of total 56) in India is also at CFA approval stage and contract is likely to be signed in the near future,” the ministry has said in its report.

It added that this is a first-of-its-kind deal that envisages the participation of private companies and would prove to be a boost for the Indian defence industry.

C-295s to replace Avro 748 aircraft

Airbus C-295 Tactical transport aircraft
Airbus C-295 Tactical transport aircraft

The IAF had selected the C-295 as the replacement for its ageing fleet of Avro 748 transport aircraft that first flew in 1961. While the first 16 aircraft are supposed to be built at the Airbus facility in Spain, the remainder are to be manufactured in India by Tata Advanced Systems Limited.

C-295 is a multi-role transport aircraft that can carry a maximum payload of 9.25 tonnes. Since its dimensions are smaller than the rest of the IAF’s transport fleet — C 130Js, C-17s and IL-76s — the C295s can take off and land at many air strips where the larger ones can’t.

Talking about the upgrade of Israeli drones Heron and the procurement of Light Combat Helicopter from HAL, the ministry said it is “also at advance stage and contracts are likely to be signed in the first quarter of 2021”.

Procurement push amid LAC tensions

Heron UAV
Heron UAV

The upgrade plans came as India is on a shopping spree to ramp up its firepower and surveillance capabilities as the ongoing tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

According to the plan, the Herons are supposed to be upgraded with laser-guided bombs, precision-guided munitions, and anti-tank missiles.

The forces are also planning to equip the drones with better surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

This is part of a project that has got a sudden push due to the ongoing tensions at the Line of Actual Control.

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