The Navy has started a $1.5 billion overhaul of its ageing Soviet-era fleet of aircraft, seeking to boost its air power in an Indian Ocean region where a growing China is threatening its traditional dominance.
The investment is one of the biggest the Indian Navy has made in recent years and reflects New Delhi's urgency to modernise its military, a move that rival Pakistan says could spark an arms build-up and destabilise an already roiled South Asia.
India plans to buy 16 new MIG-29 fighter jets, half a dozen light combat aircraft, unmanned patrol planes and multi-role helicopters. Tenders for these will be floated soon, Indian officials said.
The Indian Navy is also upgrading its Sea Harrier fighter jets, IL-38 maritime anti-submarine warfare planes and acquiring five Kamov KA-31 patrol helicopters.
"We are acquiring new fighters and helicopters to ... supplement a new aircraft carrier we are getting soon," Commander P.V.S. Satish, the Navy spokesman said in New Delhi on Thursday.
Analysts said the upgrade of the Navy was long due.
"It is almost a matter of time before ships from China arrive in India's backyard," said Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at New Delhi's Centre for Policy Research.
India and China are locked in a battle to lead Asia. New Delhi fears China is creating an arc of influence in the Indian Ocean region, bolstering claims over what has traditionally been seen as India's backyard.
Indian officials said Pakistan, too, was modernising its navy.
Pakistan's National Command Authority (NCA), which oversees the country's nuclear weapons, said last week India's arms modernisation plans could destabilise the regional balance.