Six global aircraft manufacturers have responded Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Request for Information (RFI) to supply 110 fighter aircrafts to replace its ageing fleet of MiG-21s and MiG-27s, which are being phased out of service. Of the six bids received, Lockheed Martin F-16 and SAAB Gripen are single-engine fighters, while Dassault Rafale, Boeing F-18, Eurofighter Typhoon and United Aircraft Corporation MiG-35 are twin-engine fighters.
The bids now will be evaluated after which IAF will issue Request For Proposal (RFP) with exact specifications of aircraft to be procured. The RFP is expected by early 2019. It has not specified exact requirement of fighter jets, opening up contest to both single-and twin-engine jets. Both configurations were equally competent and final choice will depend on price and extent of technology transfer.
The processes including technical evaluation and selecting one aircraft will be completed in less than two years. After that, it depends on how fast the contract negotiations can be completed. It believed that technical evaluation and trials can be completed very quickly, as all aircrafts already have been tested extensively earlier. The entire cost of procurement of 110 fighter jets will be worth over $15 billion. Single-engine aircraft will cost lower than twin-engine jets, both in unit and operational costs.
The IAF had issued RFI on April 6, 2018 with deadline July6, 2018. It stated Government is planning to buy 110 fighters jets, of which 85% will have to be built in India under ‘Make in India’ programme in partnership with Strategic Partner or Indian Production Agency. The procurement will be processed through Strategic Partnership (SP) model under Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).
Need for new aircrafts
The IAF needs minimum strength of 42 fighter squadrons to dominate and tackle two-front collusive threat simultaneously from China and Pakistan. Currently, IAF has 32 fighter squadrons. Further due to retirement of old aircrafts, the number of fighter squadrons will further go down by 2021. By then, 11 squadrons of Mig-21 and Mig-27, which are 35 to 45 years old, will be retiring from service. So to mitigate the shortfall, IAF is procuring new advance fighter aircrafts.