India begins process to procure around 110 fighter jets for IAF

Super Hornet

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. The Ministry of Defence had asked the Air Force to come up with a proposal for the manufacture of both single and twin-engine fighters. An RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender for the mega deal was issued by the Indian Air Force and the procurement will be in sync with the Government's "Make in India" initiative in the defence sector, officials said.

According to the Indian Air Force, "85 percent will have to be made in India by a Strategic Partner/Indian Production Agency".

American aerospace and defence major Lockheed Martin has welcomed Indias mega procurement initiative for fighter jets worth over United States dollars 15 billion and said that it looks forward to responding to the initial tender. Of the 110, about 82 will be single seat aircraft while about 28 will be twin-seaters.

Under the RFI issued on Friday, 85% of the 110 fighters will have to be made in India with a local strategic partner.

The order announced on Friday could be worth at least US$15 billion, and will be the world's largest fighter aircraft deal, said Rahul Bedi, a New Delhi-based analyst at Jane's Information Services.

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.

"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 F-16 remains the only aircraft programme in this competition with the proven performance and industrial scale to meet Indias operational needs and Make in India priorities including unmatched export opportunities", he said. 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 Indian Air Force was pressing the government to start the procurement process because of its depleting strength of fighter squadron.

The F-16s and the F/A-18 Super Hornets manufactured in India would not be sold to the USA, it said. In the letter Parly expressed France's keen interest to initiate discussions on the proposal of providing an additional 36 aircraft to the IAF.

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