Fresh MoD order for 100 Fighter-Jets on cards

The Ministry of Defence has decided to again invite foreign companies to make fighter jets in India. However, this time the foreign partners have been told to ‘Make in India’.

The MoD has approved a proposal by the Indian Air Force to invite international manufacturers to produce 100 single-engine fighter jets. The expected cost is around $10 billion (Rs 65,000 crore). The IAF and the MoD have listed single-engine jets as top priority.

The new proposal is similar to the previous scraped tender in which the IAF had sought 126 medium multirole combat aircraft. The difference, however, is that the IAF will specify its single-engine requirement. During the previous tender scrapped in 2015, the IAF had made known its preference for a twin-engine jet.

The request for information — it’s the first step of the buying process — will be sent to identified global players who will come and join hands with an Indian partner to produce these planes under the “Make in India” initiative, source in the security establishment have confirmed to The Tribune.

The target is to acquire the first plane within three years of signing the agreement and finish the deliveries within the next seven. It is estimated that the agreement signing will take about two years. In other words, if everything goes well, the first plane would be in by 2021-2022. This will be done under the strategic partnership model announced by the Ministry of Defence in July. Under this, foreign companies and their Indian partners will bid for the project together.

The two possible single-engine plane makers who may be shortlisted are Saab of Sweden with its “Gripen-E” jet and Lockheed Martin of the US with its latest block 70 version of “F-16”. Both companies have made it known in public statements that they are ready to “make in India”.

The IAF needs some 200 single-engine planes to replace the Soviet/Russian origin MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter jets. These are more than 35 years old. As per information tabled in Parliament in December 2016, the MiG-21 and MiG-27 are scheduled to retire in phases by 2024. The option of making indigenous fighter jet “Tejas” is being exercised to fill in the gap.

By: Tribune India

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