IAF to buy 110 fighter jets worth Rs 973.8 bn

IAF to buy 110 fighter jets worth Rs 973.8 bn

According to a statement on the defence ministry's website, at least 85% of the jets have to be made in India, giving a big push to India's "Make in India" programme.

On Friday, the IAF issued a request for information (RFI) - the first step to acquiring a weapons platform.

This will be followed by a request for proposal (RFP) or a formal tender, to be followed by evaluations, technical trials and commercial negotiations.

Lockheed Martin has positioned the newest Block 70 variant of its F-16 aircraft for the Indian Air Force, while Boeing has offered its F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III for the Indian Navy.

"85 per cent will have to be made in India by a Strategic Partne/Indian Production Agency", the Air Force said. The multi-role combat aircraft will be expected to fulfil roles that include establishing air superiority, perform air defence and air to surface operations, conduct reconnaissance, undertake maritime operations, and electronic warfare capable among other attributes.

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

Currently, the IAF has 32 combat squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 39.5, which is sought to be raised to 42. But the strength is down to about 31 operational squadrons.

Getting new aircraft is crucial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the South Asian nation faces increased risks from neighbouring Pakistan and China at a time when the Russian MiG fighters - India's mainstay - are being phased out. With talks stalling over price and quality guarantees, New Delhi scrapped the purchase in 2015.

The request for information is open till July.

"The OEM along with the SP/IPA is to propose a performance-based logistics package for an aircraft availability of 75% with an average flying effort of 150 hrs per aircraft per year for a period of ten years", the RFI read. But in September 2016, India signed an €7.87 billion (around Rs59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets.

Noting that the US Air Force has not bought an F-16 since 1999, and is transitioning its multi-role fighter force to the F-35, the think-tank said that any additional F-16 orders would be for non-US customers.

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