Context: Recently, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister approved defence deals worth ₹38,900 crore which includes procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) along with upgradation of 59 existing MiG-29 jets in the IAF inventory and procurement of 12 Su-30MKI aircraft from Russia.

More about the news:

  • Other deals include Pinaka rocket ammunition, long-range land attack missile system of over 1,000 km range and close to 250 Astra Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missiles for the IAF. 
  • The IAF has signed several major deals which include 36 Rafale jets from France, S-400 air defence systems from Russia, Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters from the U.S. among others.

Focus on IAF: India has contracted 272 Su-30 jets from Russia in different batches, a majority of which are being licence manufactured by HAL.

  • The Astra Mk-1 has been integrated on the Su-30MKI jets and is being inducted into the force. An ungraded variant, the Astra Mk-II is under development by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
    • The 12 Su-30 MKIs are meant to make up for the gaps in the Su-30MKI squadrons caused due to crashes over the years. 
  • In July-end, the IAF will start adding the first batch of the 36 Rafale multi-role jets contracted from France. 
  • Upgradation: The Jaguar, Mirage-2000, MiG-29 fighters are all being upgraded and negotiations are on with Russia for a major upgrade of the Su-30MKI fleet.
  • Focus on indigenization: Another deal is in pipeline for 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mk-1A which the IAF Chief Air Chief termed as “top priority”. The more capable and larger LCA Mk-2 is under development.
    • An indigenous fifth generation advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) is also under development and is expected to make its first flight by 2032. 
  • Need: The IAF currently has 30 fighter squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons and is set to phase out its MiG-21 fighters in the next few years further reducing the strength. 
    • As seen during the Balakot air strikes (Pakistan) in February 2019, air power will be key to swiftly respond to any short escalations.

Concerns with defence budget: The defence budget has been going down as a percentage of the GDP, and the novel coronavirus pandemic has put further budgetary constraints on military modernisation. 

  • Meager rise in defence budget:The defence allocation for 2020-21 is pegged at ₹3.37-lakh crore excluding defence pensions which accounts for 1.5% of the GDP. 
    • The ₹3.37-lakh crore allocated is just 1.8% higher compared to the revised estimates of 2019-20 which stood at ₹3.31 lakh crore.
  • Rise in defence pensions: The Army’s pay and pension bill has been increasingly steeply over the years, accounting for 60% of its budget allocation. 
  • Capital allocation down: Of the total capital allocation of ₹1.13-lakh crore, the IAF got 38% but in real terms the capital allocation for IAF has gone down from the revised estimates of 2019-20.
    • The IAF had committed liabilities, payments for deals already signed for, of over ₹47,000 crore which was more than its entire capital allocation. 


Astra missile

  • Indigenously developed Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile, Astra is designed to be mounted on a fighter aircraft and is also designed to engage and destroy highly manoeuvring supersonic aircraft.
  • With a 15-kilogram high-explosive pre-fragmented warhead, Astra has a range of over 70 km and can fly towards its target at a speed of over 5,555 km per hour. 
  • The missile has all-weather day and night capability.
  • The missile has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Pinaka weapon system

  • Pinaka is an indigenous multi-barrel rocket launch (MBRL) system, which has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Army.
  • The launch system of Pinaka can fire a salvo of 12 rockets within 40 seconds and a single battery of six launchers can take care of an area of 1,000 m × 800 m.
  • The initial version of the weapon system was called Mark I, which had a range of 40 km. The upgraded version or Pinaka Mark II has an extended range of 70 to 80 km.