10:35 GMT27 February 2021
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    Even as it moves to buy locally-designed fighter jets, the Indian military has also bought dozens of French-made Rafale and Russian-made Su-30MKI fighters, as it retires a generation of older jets.

    The Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cleared a $6.5 billion deal to buy locally-manufactured LCA MK1A Tejas light combat aircraft. It is New Delhi largest-ever purchase of an Indian-made weapon.

    “This deal will be a game-changer for self-reliance in Indian defence manufacturing,” Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said, according to the Times of India. “It would act as a catalyst for transforming the domestic aerospace ecosystem. The LCA-Tejas is going to be the backbone of the [Indian Air Force] fighter fleet in the years to come.”

    Singh said that 50% of the Tejas jet is manufactured using Indian parts, but that will soon increase to 60%.

    Built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Tejas is a single-engine fourth-generation fighter and strike aircraft intended to replace the Indian Air Force’s aging Soviet-era MiG-21s. The new aircraft has reportedly been modified for carrier operations and has a top speed of Mach 1.6. It will serve as the primary platform for the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile currently in development.

    According to the deal, HAL will supply the Indian military with 73 MK1A jets and 10 trainer versions. The deliveries will start in 2024 and be completed by the end of 2028.

    The IAF currently has roughly 40 of the earlier Tejas MK-1, deployed in the north during the tense 2020 showdown with China over the high altitude Ladakh region on their shared border. It reportedly intends to buy another 110, bringing the total of Tejas jets to 200.


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