NEW DELHI: In a major development that will come as a shot in the arm for the Indian Air Force (IAF) that has been flagging up the issue of its rapidly-depleting fleet repeatedly, India on Friday kick-started the process to acquire around 110 fighter jets.
This is one of the world’s biggest military procurement in recent years as it could cost the Indian government a whopping $15 billion. The IAF, which currently has 31 fighter squadrons as against the authorised strength of 42 squadrons, on Friday issued the Request for Information (RFI) or initial tender for the mammoth procurement deal which will be in sync with the NDA government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Defence officials said the fighter jets will be produced jointly by a foreign aircraft manufacturer along with an Indian firm under the recently-launched strategic partnership model which aims to bring in high-end, state-of-the-art Defence technology to the country.
Military aircraft producers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Saab, Dassault and Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG are among the competitors which are likely to vie for the mega deal.
This will be the first mega procurement initiative for fighter jets after the government scrapped the process to acquire 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft five years ago. Instead, the NDA government, in September 2016, signed an Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale fighters. Though the RFI said approximately 110 aircraft are being procured, defence ministry officials put the number at 114 jets.
According to the RFI, three-quarters of the total jets will be single seat aircraft while the rest will be twin-seat.
At least 85 per cent of the aircraft will have to be made in India while 15 per cent of them can be in flyaway condition. According to the RFI, aircraft manufacturers interested in the deal will have to send their proposals by July 6.
The UPA government had floated a tender in 2007 for purchase of 126 MMRCA for the IAF and, post negotiations, two of them, Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, remained in the reckoning. However, the deal could not be finalised by the UPA regime.
In September last year, Swedish defence giant Saab and Indian conglomerate Adani group had announced a collaboration, mainly eyeing the contract for the fighter jet deal. US aerospace major Lockheed Martin has joined hands with India’s Tata Advanced Systems to build the planes in India.
(With inputs from PTI)