Indian Air Force begins process to procure 110 fighter jets

The Indian Air Force and navy require as many as 400 single- and double-engine combat aircraft, according to government figures.

The defence ministry is expected to issue one of the largest global tenders, worth around $15 billion (Rs90,000 crore), for manufacture of fighter jets in India, under the "Make In India" policy of the government.

Mr. Gandhi's allegation stems from reports of industrial houses perceived close to the Modi regime having tie-ups with fighter jet companies, and ending up being strategic partners for the proposed deal.

American aerospace and defence major Lockheed Martin has welcomed Indias mega procurement initiative for fighter jets worth over United States dollars 15 billion and said that it looks forward to responding to the initial tender.

The Indian Air Force said "85 per cent will have to be made in India by a strategic partner/Indian production agency" and the first aircraft must be delivered within three years of signing the contract.

The UPA government had initiated a deal with Dassault Aviation to procure 126 Medium Multirole Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) Rafale, 18 were to reach India in fly-away condition rest 118 were to produce in India with collaboration of Indian company.

The jets should fall under the category of multi-role combat aircraft capable of carrying out roles like air superiority, air defence, air to surface operations, reconnaissance, maritime operations and air refuelling.

Nevertheless, this latest effort to get fighter jets is of immediate importance to the IAF, which now 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 deal could be worth as much as $15 billion, Bloomberg reported, quoting an analyst. However, the government is yet to take a decision on it. Modi wants to modernise the country's aging military equipment with a US$250 billion spending, but it has been bogged down by a defense procurement process which is known for delays, backtracking and a history of corruption, making it a sensitive, slow-going process. The first lot of planes manufactured by Dassault of France will join IAF in 2019 and the entire Rafale fleet is likely to be operational by 2021.

The Indian Air Force was pressing the government to start the procurement process because of its depleting strength of fighter squadron.

  • Joey Payne