NEW DELHI --- The government will spend Rs. 67,000 crore ($10.04 billion—Ed.) on made-in-India military hardware, with a defence ministry panel today clearing the purchase of 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, 15 Light Combat helicopters and 464 T-90 tanks.
Tejas manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited already has an order of 40 aircraft that it began delivering to the Indian Air Force this year. Today's Tejas order will cost the government Rs. 50,025 crore.
The helicopters, to be bought both for the Army and the Air Force, will cost Rs. 2,911 crore. The tanks will be bought from the Ordinance Factory for Rs. 13,448 crore.
The Defence Acquisition Council has also signed off on the purchase of 598 mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or drones for the Indian Army.
The Air Force raised a Tejas squadron in July this year in Tamil Nadu's Sulur with the delivery of two combat aircraft. A squadron has 14 to 16 aircraft.
Despite flaws in the Tejas, the Air Force had agreed in 2015 to induct the aircraft to keep the Tejas programme alive and bolster its flagging squadron numbers.
The Tejas has only an Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) still awaits the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) -- a final thumbs up, indicating the aircraft is fit for operational deployment. Sources told NDTV that the FOC is expected any time time now. "Niggling issues need to settled now," sources said.
For now, the Air Force will start the training and induction of pilots. Also, test pilots manning the squadron will work closely with HAL to "deal with the niggling issues," he added.
To make up the numbers, the Air Force has ordered 80 more Tejas fighters and their total number will be 120 -- the delivery will depend on HAL's production capacity.
The first batch 20 fighters produced by HAL will not have the capacity to refuel on air -- a critical quality during operations.
"That, a better radar, and the ability to fire missiles beyond the visual range will be incorporated in the second batch of 20 fighters," the officer said. India is hoping to use Israeli radars.
The Defence ministry and HAL are in the process of increasing the production capacity of Tejas fighters. The plan is to produce at least 8 aircraft annually and then increase it to 16 fighters, that is, one squadron a year.