Process to buy 110 fighter planes for IAF takes off

IAF desperately needs to increase its squadron strength to ensure a credible deterrence

IAF desperately needs to increase its squadron strength to ensure a credible deterrence

The Indian Air Force and navy require as many as 400 single- and double-engine combat aircraft, according to government figures.

"The ministry of defence, government of India, intends to procure fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force, which are to be made in India". The RFI, which lists single as well as twin engine aircraft requirement thus opens the doors for a larger global competition, which would, in turn, translate into a modern, multirole fighter.

Taking the first step towards procuring 110 fighter jets to make up for the dipping numbers of squadrons the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has sought details from manufacturers that will be interested in taking up the project. These companies include Lockheed Martin (F-16 jet), Boeing (F-18), Gripen (Sweden), Eurofighter (joint venture between ULK, Germany and Italy), MIG-35 (Russia) and Rafale (Dassault of France).

The total cost of the procurement could be between $15 billion to $20 billion dollars. "The procurement should have a maximum of 15 per cent aircraft in flyaway condition and 85 per cent will be manufactured in India under "Make in India", news agency ANI reported. As regards the capabilities of the jet, the tender stipulates that the plane should be able to perform roles like air superiority, air defence, air to surface operations and reconnaissance.

"The two aircraft have been positioned complementarily, and the purchase of the pair is an interesting proposition for policymakers from both countries", US-based think-tank Atlantic Council said in a report released in New Delhi yesterday.

The Air Force is banking on Rafale, Sukhoi 30s and indigenous Tejas and now with the process for 110 new fighters starting hoping to fill the critical gap at the earliest. Currently, the IAF has on 34 fighter squadrons against the authorised strength of 42. But in September 2016, the government inked a Rs 59,000 crore deal to buy 36 French Rafale twin-engine fighters. The first lot of planes manufactured by Dassault of France will join IAF in 2019 and the entire Rafale fleet is likely to be operational by 2021. If the present situation continues and older aircraft are phased out at the planned rate, then by 2027, the IAF could be left with just 19 fighter squadrons.

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