India Begins Hunt For 110 Fighter Jets in World’s Biggest Procurement

New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Defence on Friday issued an initial Request For Information (RFI) to global aviation companies to make fighter jets in India.

The RFI has set the ball rolling for a multi-billion dollar ‘Make in India’ project to produce 110 single or twin-engine fighter jets for the Indian Air Force with foreign collaboration.

This will be followed by request for proposal (RPF) or a formal tender. After that there will be evaluations, technical trials and commercial negotiations.

Th deal could be worth over USD 15 billion, making it one of the biggest such procurement in recent years globally.

This comes after the MoD cancelled their two-year old plan to produce 114 single-engine fighter jets with foreign collaboration at an estimated cost of Rs 1.15 lakh crore.

In 2007, tenders for the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) were floated. After an intensive trial process, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale were selected in 2012.

Price negotiations followed, but the deal couldn’t be completed and was scrapped. In April 2015, the Government announced a move to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in an off-the-shelf condition from French major Dassault.

IAF is grappling with a severe shortage of fighter planes, now down to 31 squadrons against its 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. A squadron is made up of 16-18 planes.

The RFI clearly says that fighter jets need to be manufactured in India. It will be under ‘Make in India’ to get global manufactures to have a production line in the country to be open to the possibility for future expansions. To speed up matters, the MoD will be looking at new additions made by global players since the MMRCA trials. The planes tested then were Lockheed Martin F-16IN, Boeing’s F/A-18IN, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen and MiG-35.