New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) is likely to issue the request for proposal for 110 fighters around mid-2019, according to a report in The Hindu. The daily claimed that a senior defence source had told the newspaper that the IAF was in the process of studying the request for information from six global defence majors who had sent their proposals to supply the fighters.
Top fighter jet producers Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Dassault Aviation, Eurofighter, Saab and United Aircraft Corporation have envisaged interest in the mega-deal which will be worth several thousand crores. While the first two companies are from the USA, Dassault is French, Eurofighter is a UK-Germany-Italy-Spain venture, Saab is Swedish and United Aircraft Corporation is from Russia.
Boeing is offering F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin has the F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dassault Aviation is showcasing Rafale, Eurofighter has the Typhoon, Saab has come up with the Gripen and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation has the MiG-35 on the table.
"They are being evaluated after which the service quality requirements for the new fighter will be issued by the IAF," the newspaper quoted a senior defence source as saying.
The fighter selected will be produced jointly by a foreign aircraft maker in partnership with an Indian company under the strategic partnership model to ensure that state-of-art defence technology is available in India.
With the IAF registering a massive fall in the sanctioned fighter squadron strength, the need to augment its arsenal is increasing day by day as the two nuclear-armed rivals - Pakistan and China - are going ahead with the modernisation of their respective air forces at great speed.
In the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government had in September 2016, signed an Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for the purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets after scrapping the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal.
With the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, too, getting ready, the government had in March 2017 sanctioned Rs 1381.04 crore to ramp up the jet's production from the existing eight fighters per year to 16 to ensure timely delivery of the aircraft to the IAF.