The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for the planned acquisition of 110 multirole fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.
According to the RFI, 15 percent of the platforms will be bought off the shelf while the remaining 85 percent are to be built in India with a domestic strategic partner or production agency. The MoD has also specified that about 75 percent of the 110 aircraft will be single-seat while the rest will be twin-seat aircraft.
The platforms can be either single engine or twin engine. They should be capable of performing air superiority, air defence, strike, reconnaissance, maritime and electronic warfare missions in addition to ‘buddy refuelling’ of other aircraft.
The MoD has earlier directed the Indian Air Force (IAF) to abandon its two-year-old proposal to procure 114 licence-built single-engine fighter aircraft and to broaden its fighter requirement to include twin-engine platforms.
The new RFI also specified that the OEMs are requested to convey with clarity, their Transfer of Technology (ToT) offer for indigenous manufacture of the aircraft in India. The total cost of the procurement could be between $15 billion to $20 billion.
The major contenders for the competition are likely to be American Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16V, French Dassault Rafale, Swedish Saab Gripen, Russian MiG-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon. The new aircraft are intended to replace the IAF’s MiG-21 jets.
IAF is grappling with a severe shortage of fighter planes, now down to 31 squadrons against its sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, required to deal with both China and Pakistan. Furthermore, some of squadrons are made up of aircraft which will be retired soon, thereby depleting the strength of the IAF further.