$20 billion defence project: India kicks off process to procure 110 fighter jets for IAF
Rajat Pandit| TNN | Updated: Apr 6, 2018, 20:06 IST
NEW DELHI: It's jet set, go, all over again! India has kicked off a fresh dogfight for its $20 billion "mother of all defence deals" by re-inviting global aviation majors to compete for producing fighter jets in India under the government's "strategic partnership" policy.
IAF on Friday issued a preliminary global tender or RFI (request for information) to acquire 110 fighter jets, of which 85% are to be built in India with a domestic strategic partner or production agency. The aviation majors have to submit their responses to the RFI, which also stipulates that 75% of the fighters will be single-seat jets, by July 3.
"The project will cost an estimated Rs 1.25 lakh crore. IAF hopes to issue the formal tender or RFP (request for proposal), inviting technical and commercial bids, within 6-12 months of getting the responses to the RFI," said a top source.
Though it’s very early days as yet because the entire process of submission of RFP bids, complex evaluation and field trials will take some years, the aim is to set up a second fighter manufacturing line in India to supplement the long-delayed production of indigenous Tejas jets.
IAF, after all, is grappling with just 31 fighter squadrons (each with 18 jets) when at least 42 are required to tackle the "collusive threat" from Pakistan and China. Moreover, the 10 existing squadrons of old MiG-21s and MiG-27s are slated for retirement by 2022.
The RFI comes after the NDA government scrapped its two-year-old plan to produce 114 single-engine fighters with foreign collaboration at an estimated cost of Rs 1.15 lakh crore, and asked IAF to go in for a wider competition by including twin-engine fighters as well, as was first reported by TOI in February.
But this will ensure a repeat of the original MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project for 126 jets, which was initiated by the previous UPA regime in 2007 but could never be inked due to a deadlock in the final commercial negotiations with the eventual winner of the contest, the French Rafale fighters.
The new RFI has also been issued to the six contenders in the scrapped MMRCA project, which were F/A-18 'Super Hornet' and F-16 'Super Viper' (US), Gripen-E (Sweden), MiG-35 (Russia), Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale, who will now field their latest variants for the new contest.
The NDA government had junked the MMRCA project, under which the first 18 jets were to come in flyaway condition and the rest 108 being licensed produced by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), in June 2015. It had then gone in for the off-the-shelf acquisition of 36 Rafales under the 7.8 billion Euros (Rs 59,000 crore) contract inked in September 2016.