India Floats Multibillion-Dollar Global Tender for 110 Fighter Aircraft
Out of the 110 fighter jets, at least 75 percent will comprise single-seaters while the rest will be twin-seaters, according to a request for information floated on Friday. Expert Amit Cowsish says more clarity is needed if the government is to buy both types from a single vendor or multiple vendors.
New Delhi (Sputnik) – Within a year of launching and scrapping the single-engine fighter jet program, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has once again started the process of acquiring 110 fighter aircraft.
On Friday, the IAF issued a request for information (RFI) – the first step to acquiring a weapons platform. The RFI spelt out that a maximum of 16 flyaway aircraft would be purchased from the global manufacturer and the rest are to be made in India under a strategic partnership model.
"The proposal is to procure approximately 110 fighter aircraft (about 75% single seat and rest twin-seat aircraft). The procurement should have a maximum of 15% aircraft in flyaway state and the remaining 85% aircraft will have to be made in India by Strategic Partner/Indian Production Agency (SP/IPA)," the RFI reads.
The strategic partnership model emphasizes a transfer of technology (ToT), the IAF has asked the original equipment manufacturers to specify the scope, depth and range of the ToT and key technologies which would be shared with its SP/ IPA in India.
It is noteworthy here that the Indian Defense Ministry itself admitted a few days back that the SP policy needed to be revisited in order to include the state-owned company in the process. The production of four crucial military items – fighter jets, submarines, helicopters and new-generation tanks – are listed under this model.
"It is good that the first step has been taken but the real test will lie in expediting the process further which depends on the revision of the strategic partnership model as well as clarity about whether the Indian government is ready to take both aircraft from the same manufacturer or prepared to sign two different contract," Amit Cowshish, a former financial advisor to India's Ministry of Defense, told Sputnik.
Also, we have to keep in mind that the general election is due for next summer, i.e., within the next six months; the Narendra Modi government will come into election mode, Kaushish added.
"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.
Global manufacturers should respond to the IAF by July 6, 2018. The same performance-based logistic clause had also been included in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
Meanwhile, the new development has come as a rude awakening to American firm Lockheed Martin and Swedish company Saab, which were keenly anticipating a tender specifically for single-engine fighter jets making the F-16 and Gripen the front-runners in the deal estimated to be worth at least $10 billion.
In October 2016, the Indian Defense Ministry had sent letters via Indian embassies to global manufacturers asking them whether they would set up a production line in India for a fleet of single-engine fighter jets in partnership with Indian firms. Responses were received from Lockheed Martin and Saab, which offered to set up production lines in India to manufacture the F-16 and Gripen, respectively.
An earlier attempt to acquire 126 fighter jets under the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) project launched in 2007 did not fructify and the Narendra Modi government, in April 2015, announced a move to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from French firm Dassault Aviation. The 2007 MMRCA contest, also based on capability and not the number of engines, had six fighter aircraft, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mikoyan MiG-35 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen, vying for the deal.
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