India seeks US$15b fighter jets in world's largest deal

DH file

In the last two years, the Government was holding parleys with some global companies to manufacture single engine jets in India to overcome the shortage of fighter jets as pointed out by the IAF time and again.

The Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to procure approximately 110 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.

According to the RFI, around 75% of the aircraft will be single-seat ones.

Taking the first step towards procuring 110 fighter jets to make up for the dipping numbers of squadrons the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has sought details from manufacturers that will be interested in taking up the project.

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.

India seems to have relented on the clause of "Make in India" for the Rafale deal.

"The aircraft are intended as day-and-night-capable, all-weather, multi-role combat aircraft" which can be used for air defence, reconnaissance, maritime, electronic warfare as well as refuelling missions, the statement said.

The total cost of the procurement could be between $15 billion to $20 billion dollars. 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 Air Force is banking on Rafale, Sukhoi 30s and indigenous Tejas and now with the process for 110 new fighters starting hoping to fill the critical gap at the earliest.

At present, the IAF has 32 squadrons (one squadron has 18-20 planes) while it needs at least 45 squadrons of fighter jets as numerous existing fighter jets in the IAF inventory like MIG-21 and MIG-27s are in the last stages of their operational life.

The F-16 production line will be used to service the orders from the Indian Air Force, as well as any follow-on worldwide orders.

It may be noted that the IAF is fighting a depleting squadron strength. against a sanctioned strength of 42, the IAF has an operational strength of about 31. But in September 2016, India signed an €7.87 billion (around Rs59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets.