1. With Rafale fighter jets deal in bag, IAF eyes F-16s, Saab jets under Narendra Modi’s Make in India drive

With Rafale fighter jets deal in bag, IAF eyes F-16s, Saab jets under Narendra Modi’s Make in India drive

After concluding a 7.8-billion-euro deal with France’s Dassault Aviation for 36 Rafale fighter jets, the Indian Air Force is looking for the next round of combat aircraft acquisition.

By: | New Delhi | Updated: October 15, 2016 6:54 AM
 France’s Dassault Aviation for 36 Rafale fighter jets, the Indian Air Force is looking for the next round of combat aircraft acquisition (Reuters Image) France’s Dassault Aviation for 36 Rafale fighter jets, the Indian Air Force is looking for the next round of combat aircraft acquisition (Reuters Image)

After concluding a 7.8-billion-euro deal with France’s Dassault Aviation for 36 Rafale fighter jets, the Indian Air Force is looking for the next round of combat aircraft acquisition. The Gripen fighter plane manufactured by Sweden’s Saab and American giant Lockheed Martin’s F-16 are seen to be top contenders for grabbing the lucrative IAF contracts and both firms are open to setting up production lines in India under the Modi government’s Make in India drive, official said.

US firms Boeing and Lockheed have made several presentations to the Indian defence ministry where they discussed manufacturing top-line aircraft with high-end technology in India as well as technology transfer and licensing parameters.

Lockheed, sources said, has offered to move its lone production line of the latest version of fighter aircraft F 16-Block 70 to India from Texas to meet Indian and global requirements, but with a rider that the IAF has to choose the world’s largest-sold fighter aircraft for its fleet.

From India’s perspective, besides the 36 Rafale fighter planes from Dassault, there is an urgent requirement for almost 100-plus aircraft. “The number of squadrons has gone down to 32 from the required 45. In 2007, IAF was looking for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft, with a follow-on order, bringing the number to 200. There is still a need for another 100 aircraft with a follow on for another 50 machines to meet the requirements,” said a senior IAF officer.

As far as the IAF is concerned, the F-16, which is presently being operated by the Pakistan Air Force, would be unsuitable from operational, strategic, and technological angles. The F-16 is a 40-year-old airframe, and all the upgrades that are possible are already done. There is no room for any more growth. A 40-year-old design does have its limitations that cannot be overlooked.

Industry sources, however, have pointed out that if the competition is between Lockheed and the Swedish firm, then probably the US giant will have a tough time getting a local partner. “The company does not have a strong partner to work with here locally. However, its partnership with Tata is not exclusive as it is also partnering with Boeing,” said a source.

“The offer we have given to the Indian government is unmatched and from our side unprecedented,” Randall L Howard, F16 business development head at Lockheed had said here. He said the company wants to make F 16-Block 70 “for India, from India and export to the world”. But some analysts have added a cautionary note. Air marshal M Matheswaran (retd), former deputy chief, integrated defence staff, said: “The F-16 has outlived its time. By proposing this Lockheed Martin is aiming to convert the winding up of the F-16 production line into a cash cow for another three decades.”

Meanwhile, Saab has offered to provide India’s state-run Aeronautical Development Agency assistance with the light combat aircraft Mk II, which is being developed for the Indian Navy.

  1. A
    Algen
    Oct 15, 2016 at 11:15 am
    Gripen is the right choice!1. New design, prepared for easy upgrades2. Affordable3. India will not suffer from pressure from another super power4. Make a copy of the Brazilian business case5. Saab open for tech transfer6. Saab willing/competent develop LCA7. Same engine in Gripen as future LCA8. Saab/Boeing hopefully win the TX Trainer compeion...possible production in India?F16? Please note the US/LM strategy was to CLOSE DOWN this program and replace with F35 worldwide. You will meet this market force marketing and Indian developed/produced F16.
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      GOR
      Oct 15, 2016 at 5:13 am
      We may need something different from what Pak has.
      Reply
      1. M
        Manoj Singhania
        Oct 15, 2016 at 9:07 am
        IAF has consistently underperformed against PAF. We need new technology (quality) and quany to overwhelm stan. Training, maintenance and leadership of IAF needs to be revamped as well to get at par with PAF. Beware PAF is modernizing via Chinese stealth fighters.
        Reply
        1. W
          Willwin
          Oct 15, 2016 at 6:16 am
          F-16 will become obsolete in next five years. There is a fair chance our very own Tejas is going to outperform Gripen in the few years time!I think it better to go all out for the new version of Tejas!
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            Balbinder
            Oct 15, 2016 at 5:25 am
            The government should go with saab as Gripen aircrft will be only with india and none of our neighbours have it thus it will a advantage for us and as the Gripen is of newer design it can also be upgraded and the most important thing is that which one of the aircraft is chosen it should be done fast.
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              Gopal Das
              Oct 15, 2016 at 4:45 am
              SAAB Gripes NG is a better option than F-16s. With the development of war machinations F-16s may have its out dated. F-16V is the latest upgraded version. It may be considered under TOT.
              Reply
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                Nawaponrath Asavathanachart
                Oct 15, 2016 at 5:34 am
                F-16V is the same price as Gripen E better to go with Gripen E it is a better fighter jet
                Reply
                1. S
                  Sami Shahid
                  Oct 15, 2016 at 9:54 pm
                  Is there anything for Indian civilians in India except outdated metro trains and a bullet train funded by a anese loan ?
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    ST
                    Oct 15, 2016 at 7:04 am
                    goverment should sk lockheed martin to make F22 raptor in india by removing ban on from usa goverment for india as a strategic partner
                    Reply
                  2. S
                    Suresh
                    Oct 15, 2016 at 4:00 pm
                    Gripen Saab only subsute, India should not entertain outdated USA products
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      Suresh
                      Oct 15, 2016 at 4:05 pm
                      Gripen Saab only subsute, if India go for make in India plan
                      Reply
                      1. S
                        Suresh
                        Oct 15, 2016 at 4:02 pm
                        Why not talks happened on. Kamov 28 submarine hunters, today's meeting with Russian prez
                        Reply
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                          Jaijawan Jaikisan
                          Oct 15, 2016 at 6:04 am
                          gripen might be a hidden performer like bofors which is also swedish.Please note that bofors is a good weapon sans bribery. The total bribe might have been dwarfed by the indian military success by this weapon (kargil/etc).
                          Reply
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