India to strengthen its Air Force has asked global companies to submit proposals for 110 fighter jets, the world's biggest order. As mentioned on the website of Defence Ministry, at least 85% of the jets are made in India, boosting PM Narendra Modi's initiative to localise production.
The issue of the request for information (RFI) is the first step to acquiring the aircraft.
According to reports, manufacturers such as SAAB of Sweden, Lockheed Martin and Boeing of the United States, Dassault of France, MiG of Russian Federation and the European consortium Eurofighter are expected to compete for India's requirement.
The latest tender states that 85 per cent of the 110 aircraft will be built in India with a total of 75 per cent of total aircraft to be in the single seat category. The multi-role combat aircraft will be expected to fulfil roles that include establishing air superiority, perform air defence and air to surface operations, conduct reconnaissance, undertake maritime operations, and electronic warfare capable among other attributes. The purchase has been controversial, with the opposition claiming the government paid too much for the fighters, although the government says the scrapped 2012 deal isn't comparable to the new one.
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The Indian Air Force has a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons-required for a possible two-front war scenario, given India's hostile relations with Pakistan and uncomfortable ties with China.
According to estimates, some 400 aircraft will be going out of service in the next decade. "The MoD intends to procure fighter aircraft for the IAF which is to be made in India".
"The F-16 remains the only aircraft programme in this competition with the proven performance and industrial scale to meet Indias operational needs and Make in India priorities including unmatched export opportunities", he said. "Both options are open at this stage", said a senior officer familiar with the matter on condition of anonymity. Instead, the NDA government had signed a deal of 7.87 billion euros (about Rs 59,000 crore) with the French government to purchase 36 Rafael Double-engine fighter planes in September 2016.
Noting that the US Air Force has not bought an F-16 since 1999, and is transitioning its multi-role fighter force to the F-35, the think-tank said that any additional F-16 orders would be for non-US customers.
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