India is on the verge of signing fighter deals worth more than $12.2 billion (Rs 54,900 crore) to sharpen the air force's offensive capabilities.
The IAF's $10.2-billion (Rs 45,900 crore) tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), India's biggest-ever military contract, is likely to be signed by September 2011, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik declared on Thursday.
Speaking at Aero India-2011, India's biggest aerospace extravaganza, Naik said, "Unless dissatisfied vendors put a spoke in the wheel, I'm sure the contract will be signed by September."
Commercial negotiations will start in 2-4 weeks.
Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Lockheed Martin (F-16 Super Viper), Eurofighter Typhoon (a consortium of British, German, Spanish and Italian companies), Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Saab (Gripen) and Russian Aircraft Corporation's MiG-35 are angling for the order.
Five of these six contenders are taking part in the airshow, held every two years at Yelahanka airbase.
The Russian MiG-35 is the only competitor that has skipped the airshow.
The IAF tested the performance of the planes and submitted its evaluation report to the defence ministry in July 2010.
In another announcement, the IAF's deputy chief Air Marshal RK Sharma said commercial negotiations to upgrade Mirage-2000 fighter jets had been concluded.
The $2-billion deal (Rs 9,000 crore) for upgrading 51 fighter planes is expected to be signed by March 2011.
French defence firms Dassault Aviation, along with Thales and MBDA, will equip the fighters with new avionics, weapons, radars, electronic warfare suites, glass cockpits and sensors.
Sharma said the Mirage fighters would serve the air force for another 20 years. The fighters were inducted in mid-1980s.
The air force is also inching towards inducting the intermediate jet trainer (IJT), designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The IJT (HJT-36), conceived 15 years ago, will replace the IAF's ageing Kiran trainer aircarft.
HAL's officiating chairman D Shivamurti said the new trainer would get its initial operational clearance by June 2011.