The Indian military is looking to purchase 97 Tejas combat aircraft, which are manufactured by a state-owned company An Indian Air Force’s Tejas fighter jet performs during the first day of the Aero India 2021 Airshow at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bangalore on February 3, 2021. © Jewel SAMAD / AFP

The Indian Ministry of Defense is planning to acquire 97 fighter jets from state-owned aerospace manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), ANI news agency reported on Friday. The deal is worth an estimated 650 billion rupees ($7.8 billion) and would be the largest purchase of domestically produced warplaces by the Indian military.

The procurement of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk 1A fighter aircraft is part of an ongoing effort to replace the current fleet of MiG fighter jets, which were procured over a number of decades from the USSR and Russia.

It would be HAL’s second contract for Tejas after an initial batch of 83 domestically manufactured jets was procured in 2021 under a contract valued at 480 billion rupees ($6 billion).

India’s indigenous fighter aircraft program is expected to be a major catalyst for promoting domestic manufacturing, and will offer business opportunities to small and medium enterprises under New Delhi’s updated policy aiming to attract private companies to the defense sector.

Modi flies India-made combat aircraft (VIDEO) Modi flies India-made combat aircraft (VIDEO)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been actively backing the revival of HAL, which has secured contracts to manufacture various indigenous fighter aircraft, helicopters, and engines during his administration, ANI said. In November, Modi took a 30-minute sortie in a twin-seat variant of the Tejas in the southern city of Bengaluru, where HAL is based.

Earlier this year, the Indian Ministry of Defense announced a $650 million contract with HAL for the manufacture of RD-33 aero engines for Russian-designed MiG-29 aircraft. They will be produced under license from the Russian manufacturer.

“The program will focus on indigenization of several high-value critical components, which would help increase the indigenous content of future repair and overhaul tasks of RD-33 aero-engines,” the ministry said.

The Indian Air Force has around 70 MiG-21 aircraft and 50 MiG-29s in active service, according to various reports. While the Mig-21s will be entirely phased out by 2025 and will be replaced by the Tejas MK1A, the MiG-29 fleet is expected to continue in service until 2035.

HAL also manufactures the two-seater, twinjet multirole fighter Su-30 MKI, developed by Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi under license. Last year, India’s Defense Acquisition Council approved nine proposals to buy military equipment worth a combined 450 billion rupees ($5.41 billion) from domestic manufacturers.

The package included 12 Russian-designed Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets to be built by HAL. The Indian Air Force currently has around 260 of twin-seat Su-30 MKIs, which constitute the backbone of its combat fleet, the Times of India reported last year. Russia continues to be India’s largest arms supplier, accounting for 36% of its arms imports, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

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