IAF begins process to buy 110 fighter jets for over $15 billion in mega deal

The IAF’s order could be worth as much as $15 billion, and at least 85% of the jets will be made in India.

india Updated: Apr 07, 2018 08:05 IST
Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Indian Air Force,Fighter jets,IAF
India started looking for new warplanes in 2007, a contest that ended with the government selecting Dassault Aviation for 126 Rafale jets for $11 billion(aP Photo)

The Indian Air Force on Friday began the process of buying around 110 fighter jets, which could be worth more than $15 billion, in what will be, once it is closed, one of the biggest defence deals in recent years.

IAF published a Request for Information on its website on Friday seeking supply of single- and twin-seat jets to be mostly manufactured locally under the Modi government’s flagship Make in India scheme.

The fact that a RFI was imminent was first reported by Hindustan Times which said in a report on March 12 that one would be issued within the month.

According to the RFI, around 75% of the aircraft will be single-seat ones. IAF intends to use the aircraft as day and night -capable, all-weather, multi-role combat aircraft. The RFI is likely to evoke interest from most major aircraft makers, including Saab, Lockheed Martin, and Dassault Aviation.

According to the RFI, 15% of the aircraft will be bought in a flyaway state, and the rest will have to be made locally.

The RFI is the first step towards finding a new warplane for the air force and global manufacturers have to respond to it by July 6, with operational features and technical parameters of their platforms.

That done, the air force will make a case for getting the ministry’s so-called acceptance of necessity (AoN) – a stamp of approval to pursue a military purchase programme.

“After the AoN comes, we could either opt for a government-to-government deal or put out a tender. Both options are open at this stage,” said a senior officer familiar with the matter on condition of anonymity.

The air force wants to speed up the project as the count of its fighter squadrons has shrunk to 31 compared to an optimum strength of 42-plus units required to fight a two-front war.

The urgent need for fighters has also been necessitated by the phasing out of Russian MiG fighters -- India’s mainstay. According to the government’s own estimates, the country’s air force and navy require as many as 400 single- and double-engine combat aircraft. India started looking for new warplanes in 2007, a contest that ended with the government selecting Dassault Aviation to supply 126 Rafale jets for $11 billion. But the plans were scrapped for acquiring the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force around five years ago.

Instead, the National Democratic Alliance(NDA) government, in September 2016, signed an Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets. The IAF was keen on a follow-on order of 36 additional Rafales. However, the government is yet to take a decision on it. The purchase has been controversial, with the opposition claiming the government paid too much for the fighters, although the government says the scrapped 2012 deal isn’t comparable to the new one.

First Published: Apr 06, 2018 17:45 IST