IAF wants fighter jet deal worth Rs 1.25L cr to be fast-tracked

Against the backdrop of dwindling fighter squadrons, the Indian Air Force (IAF) feels that its requirement for more than 100 combat aircraft expected to be worth over Rs 1.25 lakh crore should be procured through a government-to-government (G2G) deal to avoid further time delays due to the complex acquisition process involved in it.

The IAF wants the inter-governmental deal as the Defence ministry is of the view that it should not proceed with the single-engine fighter aircraft programme, and initiate a global programme where all fighter aircraft manufacturers would be invited through a competitive tender and the winner would be chosen after extensive trials.

“The IAF wants the acquisition procedure for acquiring the new aircraft to be completed in the shortest possible time and that will be possible only if they are allowed to go for a government-to-government deal with a foreign country.

Even a G2G deal would take four years for the first plane to be delivered, and this would be the only way to end the vicious circle of delays,” government sources told Mail Today.

“If the government decides to buy planes through a tender route, it would take a minimum of eight to nine years as at least five years would be required to select a vendor, and then another three would be required for the delivery,” they said.

The 36 Rafale planes, which will start getting inducted from next year, were also acquired through an inter-governmental deal with France in 2016.

In the past, the IAF suffered major delays in fulfiling its requirements by going through the normal acquisition process as the UPA’s plan to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft dragged on for 10 years due to fears of corruption, and ultimately was scrapped by the NDA government.

On the reasons for not backing the single-engine aircraft programme where 114 planes were to be manufactured indigenously in partnership with either USA or Sweden, sources said there were allegations of favouritism and wrongdoings even before the deal was initiated.

Now, the government is mulling to start a tender afresh, inviting all the major vendors. But the IAF, wants a quick solution to its aircraft strength in view of the phasing out of the MiG-21s and other planes.

“IAF will have 32 Fighter Squadrons and 39 Helicopter Units by 2020,” the Defence Ministry had stated in Parliament. The force is finding it difficult to arrest the falling squadron strength due to delays in the induction of the indigenously manufactured LCA Tejas planes.

“10 squadrons of IAF equipped with MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft are scheduled to retire by 2024 on completion of their Total Technical Life,” the government said.

Due to lack of inductions in the force, the Su-30MKI has become the mainstay as 11-12 squadrons would be deployed by 2020.

By: India Today

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