The Indian Navy will soon invite requests for proposals (RfPs) for a Rs 95,000-crore tender to purchase 57 fighter aircraft. An official source said: “Companies including Sweden-based SAAB, Lockheed Martin, Boeing (both US-based firms), France’s Dassault Aviation and Russia’s MIG will be receiving the RfPs soon.” These firms had responded to requests for information (RfIs) issued in 2017. The navy’s move comes close on the heels of the Indian Air Force (IAF) seeking RfIs for110 fighter jets, in what could potentially lead to a deal worth $15 billion, one of the biggest for India’s armed forces in recent years. According to industry sources, Boeing’s recently announced tie-up with the Mahindra Group and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) is primarily in view of the the 57-aircraft requirement for the navy.
Speaking to FE on condition of anonymity, a senior service officer indicated that the navy’s requirement could be substituted by IAF, which needs ground-based fighters at strategic locations in the Indian Ocean. According to military experts, while the American companies are not offering their latest technology fighters like the F-22 and F-35 to the IAF, the competition will hinge on the level of the technology to be released by the firms from Russia, France and Europe for the 110 fighters for the IAF.
The American fighters being offered are both old-technology aircraft with differences in specifications; for instance, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 has 12,000 hours’ service life versus Boeing’s F/A-18’s 6,000-hour service life. Other differentiators also lie in AESA technology and electronic warfare capability in modern warfare. The RfI for 57 aircraft for the Indian Navy are “intended as day-and-night capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air defence, air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance, etc, from IN aircraft carriers”.