The government began the long-delayed process of buying 110 aircraft fighter planes for the Indian Air Force (IAF), which will help make up a shortfall of more than 10 squadrons, in what will be one of the country’s biggest defence deals in recent times.
Of the planes, 15% have to be in flyaway condition with the remaining 85% to be made in India by a strategic partner, according to the terms of the request for information (RFI) issued by the defence ministry on Friday.
The ministry sought global participation and transfer of technology for indigenous manufacture of the aircraft in India. Proposals have to be submitted by July 6.
The move comes in the wake of the defence ministry scrapping its two-year-old plan to produce 114 single-engine fighter jets with foreign collaboration at an estimated cost of Rs 1.15 lakh crore.
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 competition could include the firms that had competed for the earlier Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) project that was subsequently scrapped and 36 Rafale jets are being acquired instead.
Nevertheless, this latest effort to get fighter jets is of immediate importance to the IAF, which currently has a strength of 31 fighter squadrons (each of 18 jet planes), when it actually requires 42 to tackle the threat emanating from Pakistan and China. The aircraft should be capable of operating during daytime and nighttime and take on multi-combat roles such as reconnaissance, maritime and air defence, according to the RFI.
Foreign manufacturers have to agree to transfer technology and pledge the level of indigenisation besides providing cost estimates.
Technical requirements for the aircraft have also been given in the RFI. These include manoeuvrability, maximum weapon load-carrying capacity, air-to-air refuelling and total lifespan.