IAF issues global RFI for production of 110 fighter jets in India

The fresh efforts for procuring fighters could pit single and twinengine aircraft against one another, as the defence ministry had asked the IAF to draw up a proposal that would include both types.

The Indian Air Force on Friday issued the Request for Information, or initial tender, for the procurement deal looking to buy more than 100 new fighter jets.

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.

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

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.

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

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. The deal will be with the government's Make in India initiative. 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 fighter jets will be jointly produced by a foreign maker in collaboration with Indian company under "Make in India" campaign. The force is thus in desperate need to replace its aging fighters as well as fill in for the numbers that were to be plugged by 126 Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft- of which only 36 Rafales have been ordered. However, the government is yet to take a decision on it.

At present, the IAF has 32 squadrons (one squadron has 18-20 planes) while it needs at least 45 squadrons of fighter jets as numerous existing fighter jets in the IAF inventory like MIG-21 and MIG-27s are in the last stages of their operational life.

Instead, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, in September 2016, signed an Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets.

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