Economy

Indian Air Force begins process to procure 110 fighter jets

Indian Air Force begins process to procure 110 fighter jets

IAF published a Request for Information on its website on Friday seeking supply of single- and twin-seat jets to be mostly manufactured locally under the Modi government's flagship Make in India scheme.

The order would be worth between $9-13 billion (Rs 584-844 billion) making it the world's biggest global fighter buy. The project under the "Make in India" and strategic partnership policy envisages production of the planes here under joint venture between a foreign vendor and an Indian company.

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.

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On Friday, the IAF issued a request for information (RFI) - the first step to acquiring a weapons platform.

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

According to estimates, some 400 aircraft will be going out of service in the next decade.

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Lockheed Martin has positioned the newest Block 70 variant of its F-16 aircraft for the Indian Air Force, while Boeing has offered its F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III for the Indian Navy.

Though the RFI said approximately 110 aircraft are being procured, defence ministry officials put the number at 114 jets.

"The two aircraft have been positioned complementarily, and the purchase of the pair is an interesting proposition for policymakers from both countries", US-based think-tank Atlantic Council said in a report released in New Delhi yesterday. 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. According to the government response in Parliament, the Indian Air Force will get 32 Fighter Squadron and 39 Helicopter units by 2020. 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.

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