New jets won't join IAF anytime soon

  • New jets won't join IAF anytime soon

New jets won't join IAF anytime soon

In an effort to bolster the dwindling fighter aircraft fleet, the Defence Ministry on Friday floated a global tender or request for information (RFI) for 110 jets.

The proposal is to procure 110 fighter jets and over 90 will be manufactured in India, according to the RFI issued. The new aircraft are meant to replace the IAF's MiG21 jets. These companies include Lockheed Martin (F-16 jet), Boeing (F-18), Gripen (Sweden), Eurofighter (joint venture between ULK, Germany and Italy), MIG-35 (Russia) and Rafale (Dassault of France). The deal could be worth as much as $15 billion, Bloomberg reported, quoting an analyst. At least 85 per cent of the jets - three-quarters of which are single-seat aircraft and the rest twin-seat - have to be made in India and manufacturers interested in bidding need to send their proposals by July 6, according to the government.

"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. Officials said that with the intention of bringing state-of-the-art defence technology in the recent strategic partnership model, in collaboration with Indian company, foreign aircraft manufacturers will create a combat aircraft. With talks stalling over price and quality guarantees, the government scrapped the purchase in 2015 and bought 36 jets separately to speed up the process. Modi wants to modernise the country's aging military equipment with a US$250 billion spending, but it has been bogged down by a defense procurement process which is known for delays, backtracking and a history of corruption, making it a sensitive, slow-going process. But the strength is down to about 31 operational squadrons.

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

At present, the IAF has 32 squadrons (one squadron has 18-20 planes) while it needs at least 45 squadrons of fighter jets as numerous existing fighter jets in the IAF inventory like MIG-21 and MIG-27s are in the last stages of their operational life.