IAF begins process to procure 114 fighter jets

An Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter jet lands on the Lucknow Agra Expressway during an IAF drill in Bangarmau in Unnao district

An Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighter jet

In what reiterates the government's commitment to Make in India, 85 per cent of the 110 fighters will be made in India. It is the first mega procurement initiative for fighter jets after the Government scrapped the process to acquire 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the IAF around five years ago. That will be followed by a process - which in the past lasted several years - of issuing a formal tender, carrying out technical and flying trials, evaluating costs, reaching a discussion and then negotiating final costs with the winning vendor.

According to reports, manufacturers such as SAAB of Sweden, Lockheed Martin and Boeing of the United States, Dassault of France, MiG of Russian Federation and the European consortium Eurofighter are expected to compete for India's requirement. An official said the deal could be worth over United States dollars 15 billion.

The MoD has specified that about 75 percent of the 110 aircraft will be single seat fighters while the rest will be twin seater aircraft. An India partnership presents a way to sustain F-16 production, with all the economic and strategic benefits that result, it said. The aircraft should be capable of operating during daytime and nighttime and take on multi-combat roles such as reconnaissance, maritime and air defence, according to the RFI.

Nevertheless, this latest effort to get fighter jets is of immediate importance to the IAF, which now has a strength of 31 fighter squadrons (each of 18 jet planes), when it actually requires 42 to tackle the threat emanating from Pakistan and China.

Currently, the IAF has 31 fighter squadrons as against authorised strength of 42 squadrons.

The request for information is open till July. The latest RFI comes on the backdrop of an ongoing procurement of Rafale fighter jets from France and a delayed induction homemade Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.

The RFI requires no more than 15 per cent of the order - or 16-17 fighters - to be supplied in "flyaway" or fully-built stage. 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.

In September 2016, India had signed an Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets.

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