After having signed a government-to-government deal with France’s Dassault Aviation for 36 Rafale fighters on September 23, the government has kickstarted the hunt for 200-300 more fighters to overcom
After having signed a government-to-government deal with France’s Dassault Aviation for 36 Rafale fighters on September 23, the government has kickstarted the hunt for 200-300 more fighters to overcome a critical shortage in its fighter aircraft fleet. Indian embassies overseas are getting in touch with major aircraft manufacturers for detailed information on the aircraft they can offer as well as the quantum and mode of technology transfer, a top defence ministry source told this newspaper.
“It is understood Indian embassies have been instructed to conduct information-gathering through military attaches posted there. This is not a Request for Information (RFI) proposal as of now. In a few cases, requests have already gone, in some they are about to be sent,” the source said.
“There have been a few unsolicited offers from major aircraft makers (recently). But we will be looking at the offers from the ‘Make in India’ perspective,” he added.
At present, the Indian Air Force, the world’s fourth largest, has 33 fighter squadrons, far short of its critical strength of 42 squadrons.
While the source did not detail which companies are being approached, the likely list will include Dassault Aviation, Boeing (US), Lockheed Martin (US), Saab (Sweden) and BAE (UK). The aircraft in contention are expected to be Rafale, F-18, F-16, Grippen and the Eurofighter.
A Reuters report claimed that the value of the deal may go up to $15 billion (around `1 lakh crore), making it one of the biggest military aircraft deals in the country’s history.
In June, Saab proposed to set up a huge establishment in India that will make fighters and other defence products. In August, Lockheed Martin made an offer to move its sole production line of the latest version of F-16-Block 70 to India from Texas to meet Indian and global needs. But both proposals are subject to the IAF choosing its fighter aircraft for its fleet.
The source also said the hunt is at a very initial stage. As Jan Widerstrom, chairman and managing director of Saab India Tecnologies, told this newspaper in an interview recently: “Any fighter aircraft acquisition programme is going to be very complex in nature, given the number of parameters to be taken into consideration. In addition, a new programme would involve the establishment of a large aerospace ecosystem in India.”