Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria
Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria

Indian Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria on Thursday said the induction of LCA Tejas has arrested the depletion of squadrons.

The government on Wednesday formally sealed the Rs 48,000-crore deal to procure 83 Tejas LCA from state-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The deal is being described by the government as the "biggest" Make-in-India defence contract.

Speaking on this, Bhadauria said, "With LCA induction, we have arrested the slide in the number of squadrons; we've now reversed it... We're going to start upwards 30 squadrons now."

Tejas, manufactured by the HAL, is a single engine and highly agile multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-threat air environments. Delivery of the Tejas LCA to the IAF under the Rs 48,000-crore deal will begin from March 2024, and around 16 aircraft will be rolled out annually till the completion of the total supply of 83 jets, according to R Madhavan, chairman and managing director of HAL.

The contract was handed over by Director General (Acquisition), Ministry of Defence, V L Kantha Rao to Madhavan at the inaugural ceremony of Aero India-2021 in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

On the increase in defence budget of 2021–22, Bhadauria said, "We all know the pandemic effect and its impact on [the] economic scenario. To get this level increase in capital outlay, it's a huge step by [the] govt to provide that kind of budgetary support."

"Last year also, additional funds of Rs 20,000 crore were provided. That helped the emergent procurement plans of the three forces, and that really helped us. I think it is adequate for our capability building," the IAF chief added.

The overall defence allocation for 2021–22 was hiked marginally by around 1.4% in the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday. There was a nearly 19 per cent rise in capital outlay for military modernisation even as official data showed that an additional unbudgeted Rs 20,776 crore was spent on military hardware in the face of the Ladakh border standoff with China.

According to the 2021–22 budget documents presented by Sitharaman in Parliament, the allocation for defence services was increased to Rs 4.78 lakh crore compared with Rs 4.71 lakh crore in the 2020–21 budget.

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