Indian Air Force begins process to procure 110 fighter jets

The Indian Air Force on Friday set in motion the process of acquiring a fleet of 110 fighter jets worth an estimated $15 billion, one of its largest orders in recent years, in a bid to shore up its fast-depleting squadron strength. As mentioned on the website of Defence Ministry, at least 85% of the jets are made in India, boosting PM Narendra Modi's initiative to localise production.

The RFI is the first step towards finding a new warplane for the air force and global manufacturers have to respond to it by July 6, with operational features and technical parameters of their platforms.

According to Air Force sources, manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing of the United States, Dassault of France, SAAB of Sweden, European consortium Eurofighter and MiG of Russian Federation are expected to compete.

The Indian Air Force issued the RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender for the billion dollar procurement deal which will be in sync with the government's Make in India initiative. Of the 110, about 82 will be single seat aircraft while about 28 will be twin-seaters.

The Indian Air Force in a notice said that the procurement will have a maximum of 15 per cent aircraft in flyaway state and the remaining 85 per cent aircraft will have to be made in India by a Strategic Partner and the Indian Production Agency. The multi-role combat aircraft will be expected to fulfil roles that include establishing air superiority, perform air defence and air to surface operations, conduct reconnaissance, undertake maritime operations, and electronic warfare capable among other attributes. The deal could be worth as much as $15 billion, Bloomberg reported, quoting an analyst.

Currently, the IAF has 31 fighter squadrons as against authorised strength of 42 squadrons. The new aircraft are meant to replace the IAF's MiG21 jets. "Both options are open at this stage", said a senior officer familiar with the matter on condition of anonymity. With talks stalling over price and quality guarantees, the government scrapped the purchase in 2015 and bought 36 jets separately to speed up the process. The RFI, which seeks information from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on the specifications of the aircraft, is for the single as well as twin-engine fighters. The IAF was keen on a follow-on order of 36 additional Rafales.

  • Rogelio Becker