Akash, LCA get fresh lease of life

In a boost to indigenous projects, Defence Minister A K Antony on Tuesday announced a Rs 4,000-crore push for Akash missiles for the Army and a Rs 8,000-crore push for the Light Combat Aircraft programme's naval and air versions. The weapons at trial stages have not satisfied user agencies in recent days. The minister was on a tour of defence facilities here.

Antony said the Defence Acquisition Council had on Monday cleared the path for the procurement of six more squadrons of Akash missiles to add to existing two. Each squadron comprises 125 missiles and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) had been chosen to build systems for them, Antony said during the unveiling of a digital flight control computer manufacturing facility for the LCA at BEL. "Initially, the Army wanted to exit the Akash missiles programme. What were doubts are now becoming reality. Now they are very happy with the system," Antony said.

According to the minister, similar doubts over the LCA and MBT battle tank were also disappearing. "The Cabinet Committee on Security has cleared a Rs 8,000-crore investment in the LCA development programme for further development of the naval and air versions, also for the development of new engines for naval model," Antony said.

The LCA project recently ran into rough weather with the Navy expressing doubts over the development of a naval version of the indigenous aircraft.

Antony said the LCA would be ready for use by the Indian Air Force by the end of 2012. The IAF has ordered for 20 LCAs or Tejas as they are known. The purchase of another 20 had been cleared and was awaiting Cabinet clearance, he said.

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