India is poised to float its biggest ever international defence tender for the purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft by early next month in a bid to shore up its dwindling fighter strength.
Indicating this, Defence Minister A K Antony said the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) would meet in the Capital in another 15 days to clear the floating of the Request For Proposals (RFP).
India is going in for purchase of these aircraft to shore up its fighter squadron strength, which in recent years has fallen to the lowest-ever level of 32 squadrons from the sanctioned 45 squadrons.
"The DAC will be meeting within a fortnight and decide on the RFP. All negotiations are over and now it is a question of formalities," the minister told reporters, emerging after addressing the Combined Commanders conference, where the issue figured prominently.
Six aviation majors are bidding for the Indian deal, which according to defence experts could run up to anything between $six to eight billion.
Among the bidders are US aircraft manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Boeing, European consortium with its Eurofighter, Sweden's SAAB with its Grippen fighter, Dassault Aviation's with its Rafale and the Russian Mig 35.