New Delhi: The Indian Air Force is looking at procuring around 350 aircraft from the domestic aerospace industry in the next two decades that include the 83 Light Combat aircraft Tejas, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said on Wednesday. Addressing a conference on the Indian aerospace sector, the Chief of Air Staff also talked about the need for developing asymmetric capabilities to bolster the IAF's overall strength in view of challenges from China.
"Looking at the northern neighbour, we have to have niche technologies which must be built in-house by our own industry for reasons of security," he said, stressing the need to make ''Aatmanirbharta'' (self-reliance) the most important and strongest pillar of national security.
Emphasising that India becoming self-reliant in the defence sector is crucial for dealing with various challenges, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria said the IAF is committed to supporting the domestic industry.
"From my perspective, we are at least looking at 350 odd aircraft over the next two decades and it includes the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)," he said at the seminar organised by CII's Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) and the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS).
Later, he said clarified the number of aircraft he referred to will include those being made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Chief of Air Staff said the LCA programme has redefined military aviation and it will make the core of the aerospace industry in terms of budget and ecosystem.
"The level of automation achieved by the support of the industry has given the strength to act fast, decide fast and react fast," he said.
In February, the government sealed a Rs 48,000 crore deal to procure 83 Tejas light combat aircraft from state-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, in the biggest ever indigenous defence procurement programme. The aircraft is a potent platform for air combat and offensive air support missions while reconnaissance and anti-ship operations are its secondary roles. "The Tejas has generated a kind of confidence required to get on any project," the IAF chief said.
Referring to the AMCA (advanced multi-role combat aircraft) project, he said it is in the advanced stages of preparations. The AMCA will be a fifth-generation medium weight deep penetration fighter jet and it is expected to significantly bolster the IAF's air power capability.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria also said that the IAF is taking a series of initiatives including procuring next-generation jammers, anti-drones systems to deal with challenges from rogue UAVs. He said a number of orders have been placed with the domestic industry for procuring drones, counter-drone systems, radars and jammers.
Serious concerns over threats from enemy drones first emerged in June when two drones were used by suspected Pakistan-based terrorists to attack the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Jammu.
In his address, Jayant D Patil, President of SIDM, spoke about the potential in the manufacturing of unmanned aerial vehicles and highlighted that development in this sector would bring in a revolution in the aerospace industry.