Indian fighter contest hots up

Photo: LMCO


On April 6, 2018, the IAF issued a Request for Information for the procurement of new fighters, writes Angad Singh. This was for ‘approximately 110 aircraft’, of which about a quarter are to be twin-seaters. This week, India said progress was being made and the requirement had been cemented at 114 aircraft.

The Indian MoD expects that no more than 15 per cent of the buy to be received flyaway from the winning OEM, and intends to build the remaining 90-95 aircraft in India. Technical requirements are broadly in line with the first MMRCA Request For Proposals, which dates back to August 2007.

A lot has changed since then — when fighter manufacturers lined up in New Delhi to offer their wares. Fatigue and skepticism now rule the day. An executive leading the charge at a European airframer confirmed last year that his company would simply not bid in an open tender — expecting the MoD to evaluate the RFI responses (received in July 2018) and then open direct Government-to-Government negotiations to strike a deal. Another representative from a competing firm said that he ‘hoped’ the search for India’s next fighter would not end up an open competition as it did the first time around.

In public, however, the old contenders have all enthusiastically thrown their hats into the ring, joined by a new face. In addition to Boeing’s Super Hornet offer, Lockheed Martin with the newly-redesignated F-21 (the bespoke F-16 for India), Saab with the Gripen, Eurofighter’s longstanding Typhoon bid, RAC-MiG’s ever-hopeful MiG-35, and Dassault’s recent incumbent, an IAF source has confirmed that Russia has also offered the Su-35 this time around.

To read the full story, including details of the Lockheed Martin F-21, look out for the May issue of Combat Aircraft, on sale next week.

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