This is being considered a major setback by global manufacturers like Lockheed Martin and Saab, which have been aggressively trying to market their aircraft F-16 and Gripen-E, respectively, to India for the last two years.
New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Indian Air Force (IAF) has committed to buying a total of 324 locally developed fighter aircraft, including 201 upgraded versions of the Tejas. India's state-owned Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has asked the government to sanction an additional fund of $123 million for the upgraded versions of the Tejas fight jets, which have been upgraded with modern avionics.
"As of now, we have got the orders for about 123 aircraft and also the Air Force is committed to take another 201 aircraft," Dr. S. Christopher, the DRDO chairman said before a parliamentary panel.
The Indian defense ministry has also informed the parliamentary panel on behalf of the armed forces that the indigenously developed aircraft is compatible with present and future conflict requirements of India's armed forces.
"Tejas would form an important component of a viable air-defense system efficiently and cost-effectively. With Final Operational Clearance (FOC) features of Air to Air refueling, Derby and Python missile integrated, the LCA is expected to be a true air superiority air defense weapon of war. Light, agile and maneuverable," the Indian defense ministry acknowledged before the parliamentary panel.
Earlier on March 3, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had made it clear that her ministry will provide a decisive push to the homegrown Tejas for the Indian Air Force.
"There is a sense of urgency (to ramp up Tejas' production), more so because we have to sell it to countries," Sitharaman had said on March 3.
Presently, IAF is struggling to find financial resources to meet the requirements of aircraft, air defense systems and other critical assets due to a persistent shortfall in the budget by India's Ministry of Finance. For the year 2018-19, an estimated $17.61 billion is required by the IAF for making urgent purchases, while the allocation is only $10.1 billion.
"The shortfall in the budget will lead to the inability to procure spares and fuel. It will also impact maintenance and training of fleet and serviceability. Besides this pace of modernization will be a challenge," an IAF official informed the parliamentary panel.