India seeks US$15b fighter jets in world's largest deal

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At least 85% of the fighter jets that the Indian Air Force is acquiring are made in India, giving a big push to the government "Make in India" programme.

The vendors, Boeing (F-18 Super Hornet) and Lockheed Martin (F-16) of the US, SAAB (Gripen) of Sweden, Dassault Aviation (Rafale) of France, the European Consortium (Typhoon) and Mikoyan (MiG-35) of Russian Federation will have to reply by July 6.

A Request for Information- the first step of the tedious procurement process- for 110 fighters was issued by the IAF on Friday.

The total cost of the procurement could be between $15 billion to $20 billion dollars.

The request for information for the 110 fighter jets lays down multiple parameters on the basis which the Air Force will evaluate the fighter jets.

The latest tender states that 85 per cent of the 110 aircraft will be built in India with a total of 75 per cent of total aircraft to be in the single seat category.

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According to the RFI document, the government plans to buy about 16 off-the-shelf in a flyway condition while the remaining 94 or so will have to be made in India by a Strategic Partner or an Indian Production Agency (SP/IPA) in collaboration with a Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) which in this case is to be a leading global aircraft making company like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Dassault or Saab.

"The aircraft are intended as day-and-night-capable, all-weather, multi-role combat aircraft" which can be used for air defence, reconnaissance, maritime, electronic warfare as well as refuelling missions, the statement said.

It may be noted that the IAF is fighting a depleting squadron strength. against a sanctioned strength of 42, the IAF has an operational strength of about 31.

India began its search for new planes for the Indian air force in 2003 to replace its Soviet-era MiG fighters.

"The two aircraft have been positioned complementarily, and the purchase of the pair is an interesting proposition for policymakers from both countries", US-based think-tank Atlantic Council said in a report released in New Delhi yesterday.

Earlier in September 2016, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government 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.