(Reuters) - India plans to spend about $100 billion over the next 10 years to upgrade its largely Soviet-era military equipment, as Asia’s third largest economy looks to match its military power with its economic clout.
In what has been described as one of the world’s most dangerous regions, with three nuclear-armed countries bordering each other, India’s fears of the rising might of China and threats from Pakistan -- along with a underdeveloped aerospace industry -- have made it the world’s leading weapons importer. That makes it a lucrative market for firms such as Boeing and Dassault.
The following are some of the major modernization programs that have been announced or are planned by India’s government, taken from various Indian and international media reports.
Combat planes: India is jointly developing a stealth fighter with Russia, to be based on United Aircraft Corp’s Sukhoi T-50 platform. According to media reports, it will start taking delivery of about 250 such planes by 2015.
In addition, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is developing its own stealth aircraft, called the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, planned to be in service by 2025. Meanwhile, its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is undergoing final testing and is expected to be introduced into the Air Force soon.
Helicopters: In 2009, India invited bids for 22 combat helicopters and 15 heavy lift helicopters. Russia’s Mil Moscow Helicopter plant and U.S. Boeing submitted bids for the combat helicopters.
It was reported in Indian media late last year that Boeing’s AH-64 Apache was the front runner to win the deal for about $1.4 billion.
The country also ordered 12 AW101 helicopters, made by a unit of Finmeccanica, to be used for VIP transportation.
Cargo aircraft: In early 2008, India ordered six Lockheed Martin C-130s to be used for special operations. It also selected Boeing’s C-17 as its heavy lift transport aircraft to replace the Russian IL-76.
Ships: The Indian navy is undergoing a 15-year modernization plan. While the erstwhile Russian aircraft carrier, Gorshkov, is slated for introduction later this year, India is also building another aircraft carrier with completion due in 2013 and has plans to build another by 2017.
Up to 11 new destroyers, and 10 frigates are to be introduced, starting 2012, to replace its ageing fleet. It has also started construction on six scorpene class diesel-electric submarines and plans to have six nuclear-powered submarines in service within the next few decades.
Aircraft: The navy plans to equip its carriers with about 40 Russian Mikoyan MiG-29 combat jets, and is also developing a naval version of the LCA. It also has 12 Boeing P-8 anti submarine and reconnaissance aircraft on order.
It also plans to introduce 60 anti submarine warfare and about 50 light helicopters, apart from 120 domestically-built light helicopters.
The army plans to introduce about 250 locally built main battle tanks and about 1,650 Russian T-90 tanks by 2020. It also plans to develop and introduce 155 mm artillery guns within the next three years.
A modernization program for its soldiers, dubbed “Future Infantry Soldier As a System” is supposed to be completed by 2020. The army is also expanding along India’s eastern border with China, with plans to raise 15,000 additional troops and a new artillery division.
In addition, India is developing Agni V and VI intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads for distances over 6,000 km (3,700 miles).
The army chose Eurocopter’s AS 500 for a $550 million 197 helicopter contract in 2007. This was later scrapped due to allegations of unfair field trails from a U.S. competitor.
The army plans to obtain 114 combat helicopters from Hindustan Aeronautics and has a joint requirement for about 400 light helicopters along with the air force.
Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Ron Popeski