The Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to purchase 33 fighter jets from Russia under an emergency clause amid an ongoing border stand-off with China. Government sources have confirmed that the IAF has moved a proposal to the Defence Ministry for approval in which it has suggested the acquisition of 21 MiG-29s and 12 Su-30MKIs from Russia.
"The Air Force has been working on this plan for some time but they have now fast-tracked the process and the proposals expected to be worth over $800 million (INR 6,000 crore) would be placed before the Defence Ministry for its final approval next week at a high-level meeting", government sources told ANI.
The IAF has also decided to expedite the purchase of additional Su-30s from Russia, which will serve as substitutes for jets which have been lost in accidents. IAF head Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, in a media interaction in October 2019, confirmed that the additional Sukhoi-30MKI fighters would be built by HAL in Nasik.
“We are moving towards ordering 12 more Sukhoi-30s. Whether we need some more in lieu of aircraft that are going to get phased out from 2025 onwards… we will have to take a look later. But at the moment, 12 is what is being followed up straightaway”, Bhadauria said.
Last year, India's state-funded Hindustan Aeronautics Limited offered to produce 40 more Sukhoi-30MKI fighters at a cost of around $64 million per unit, which is lower than that of the multi-role fighter Rafale.
The IAF is facing a shortage of over 200 fighter jets in order to meet the contingencies of a two-front war with China and Pakistan. Earlier, on Tuesday, the Indian government gave additional powers to the armed forces to stock up war reserves.
Border ties between India and China have been strained for over a month and a series of high-level meetings have been conducted to resolve the border issue in the Galvan Valley, where at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a brutal clash with the People's Liberation Army. However, no conclusion has been reached so far.