The Indian Air Force is set to float within two months a long-delayed purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft in a bid to make up its dwindling fighter strength.
Indicating this, Defence Minister A K Antony addressing the Combined Commanders conference, said the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) would meet in 15 days to clear the floating of, what would be the country’s biggest ever-international defence tender.
A decision on floating of the Request For Proposals (RFP) would come in 15 days.
Major fighter jet manufacturers are targeting the lucrative Indian air defence contract that could run up to anything between $6 to 8 billion.
Aviation majors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing (US aircraft manufacturers), Eurofighter (Europe), Sweden’s SAAB with its JAS 39 Grippen fighter, Dassault Aviation for the Mirage 2000-5s with its Rafale and the Russian Mig 35 are bidding for the Indian deal. Boeing has also offered its F/A-18 aircraft for the consideration, as has MiG for MiG-35s.
India has an ageing fighter fleet, mostly a combination of Jaguars, Russian-made MiGs and French Mirage aircraft, most of which are up for replacement. However, India is looking to increase the number of Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to 200. The additional planes would replace more Jaguars, aging MiG 23s and some squadrons of MiG 27s.
It will be difficult for the Government to select among six vendors, as political and strategic considerations would be weighed in addition to technical factors.