India to buy 83 indigenous fighters for $6.5bn

Bengaluru, India, Feb 3 (efe-epa).- India on Wednesday agreed to buy 83 locally-built combat aircrafts worth more than $6.5 billion from the state-run defense and aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics.

The biggest defense deal for a homegrown company was sealed at the opening of Aero India-2021, India’s biennial defense and aerospace show, in the southern city of Bengaluru.

“I am very happy that (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) HAL has got the orders for development of 83 new indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) – Tejas MK1A from Indian Air Force valued at more than Rs. 480 billion,” Defense Minister Rajnath Singh announced in his inaugural address at the event.

Earlier, the Indian Air Force had placed an order to buy 40 fighters, which will join its fleet over the next seven years.

Tejas is a single-engine multi-role supersonic fighter capable of operating in high-threat air environments, and has been designed and developed by HAL for the Indian armed forces.

The minister said the latest deal to buy the fighters is part of the government’s flagship campaign for a self-reliant India or “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” and “probably the biggest ‘Make in India’ defense contract till date.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the campaign last year to boost the domestic manufacturing sector, reduce imports, and help India secure a major role in the global supply chain.

Minister Singh said India was on course to modernize and indigenize its defense industry with domestic manufacturing.

“We have taken steps to strengthen our security apparatus. Domestic manufacturing of bigger and complex defense platforms has now become the focus of our policy under ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’. We plan to spend $130 billion on military modernization in the next 7-8 years,” he said.

He said India had enhanced foreign direct investment in the defense sector up to 74 percent through the automatic route and 100 percent through the government route.

He stressed that this “would act as a catalyst for foreign players to invest in India.”

India is one of the largest arms importers in the world. But Aero India is a flagship show to portray the country as an emerging manufacturing hub.

“Our vision is to make India one of the biggest countries of the world in the defense sector, from design to production, with active participation of public and private sector. India has the potential to become a reliable supplier of defense equipment to many of its friendly nations,” Singh said.

In his address, he said the country was prepared to “defend its territorial integrity at all costs” even as he did not mention the boundary standoff with China.

“We have long witnessed unfortunate attempts to employ force to change the status quo along our unresolved borders. India is vigilant and prepared to counter and defeat any misadventure,” said Singh.

The three-day mega event has more than 600 exhibitors – 523 Indian and 78 foreign. EFE-EPA


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