The Indian Air Force has sent out the request for information (RfI) for a $15-billion order to procure 110 fighter aircraft. The RFI, which has a ‘Make in India’ clause as well as requirement for both single- and twin-engine fighter machines, has been sent to six global vendors. These vendors are: Boeing Company (F-18 Super Hornet) and Lockheed Martin (F-16) of the US, SAAB (Gripen) of Sweden, Dassault Aviation (Rafale) of France, the European Consortium (Typhoon) and Mikoyan (MiG-35) of Russia. As reported by FE earlier this week, the RfI has been issued ahead of the DefExpo-2018 scheduled for April 11 and the companies which have received the RfI on Friday are the same ones which had participated in medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender almost 11 years ago in 2007. The RfI document says “the MoD intends to procure fighter aircraft for the IAF which is to be made in India. The proposal is to procure approximately 110 fighter aircraft (about 75% single seat and the rest twin-seat aircraft). The procurement should have a maximum of 15% aircraft in flyaway state and the remaining 85% will have to be made in India by a strategic partner/Indian production agency (SP/IPA).” According to the document, the OEM should convey with adequate clarity their ToT offer for indigenous manufacturing of the aircraft in India.
The response time for the RfI is three months from the date of issuance, and the acquisition process will be carried out under the provisions of DPP 2016 (includes provisions of Chapter VII of this DPP), as amended from time to time. In the MMRCA, Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Swedish Gripen had lost out in field trials. Only the European Typhoon and the French Rafale had cleared trials and were selected in 2012. The IAF has already ordered 36 Rafale jets through a government-to-government deal. While Boeing is expected to announce its tie-ups with Hindustan Aeronautics and Mahindra Group during the DefExpo, Lockheed Martin in 2017 announced its tie-up with Tata Advanced Systems as its local partner and currently is in talks with several other companies to build up the supplier network. Last year, the Adani group announced a collaboration with Swedish defence major SAAB to manufacture Gripen fighter jets in India, if selected. Hakan Buskhe, president and CEO of SAAB, had said SAAB would do complete technology transfer including the “source codes” to India. In spite of the sanctioned strength of 42 combat squadrons required by the IAF, this has drastically come down to 31 at present. It will plummet further over the next decade despite addition of some Rafales and light combat aircraft. There is requirement of at least 200 more fighter aircraft to maintain minimal squadron strength and capability.