India begins process to procure 110 jets for IAF


The contract mandates that 85 per cent of the planes must be built in India as part of Narendra Modi government's drive to build a domestic defence industrial base. The IAF issued the initial tender, known as the Request for Information, to global aircraft companies to manufacture the jets along with an Indian partner.

"85 per cent will have to be made in India by a Strategic Partne/Indian Production Agency", the Air Force said.

The order would be worth between $9-13 billion (Rs 584-844 billion) making it the world's biggest global fighter buy.

Lockheed has offered to move its F-16 production line in Fort Worth, Texas, to India and make it the only plant worldwide to produce the F-16 for not only India but also other countries, said Vivek Lall, vice president, strategy and business development at Lockheed Martin.

The issue of the request for information (RFI) is the first step to acquiring the aircraft.

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.

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The jets should fall under the category of multi-role combat aircraft capable of carrying out roles like air superiority, air defence, air to surface operations, reconnaissance, maritime operations and air refuelling.

The air force wants to speed up the project as the count of its fighter squadrons has shrunk to 31 compared to an optimum strength of 42-plus units required to fight a two-front war.

India began its search for new planes for the Indian air force in 2003 to replace its Soviet-era MiG fighters. In September past year, Swedish defence giant Saab and Indian conglomerate Adani group had announced a collaboration, mainly eyeing the contract for the fighter jet deal.

This is the first major tender to be floated after seven billion Euros (Rs 59,000 crore) deal for 36 Rafale jets was inked by India with France in 2016 in a Government to Government deal.

Earlier the Indian government was mulling over procuring single engine aircrafts F-16 Block 70 and Swedish company SAAB's Gripen, but according to reports published in Reuters, the government had asked the IAF to consider twin engine aircraft Boeing's F/A - 18 Super Hornet. 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.