India Floats Multibillion-Dollar Global Tender for 110 Fighter Aircraft

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

According to the RFI, aircraft manufacturers interested in the deal will have to send their proposals by July 6.

Officials said the jets will be produced jointly by a foreign aircraft maker along with an Indian company under the recently-launched strategic partnership model which aims to bring in high-end defence technology to India.

"PM's friends race to tie up STRATEGIC partners", Mr. Gandhi tweeted in response to the Request for Information (RFI) issued on Friday by the Defence Ministry for acquiring the jets.

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.

It added that 25 percent fighter aircraft will be twin seat and 75 percent single seat.

"The aircraft are intended as day-and-night-capable, all-weather, multi-role combat aircraft" which can be used for air defence, reconnaissance, maritime, electronic warfare as well as refuelling missions, the statement said.

The Air Force is acquiring the new fighter jets as its fleet is down to just 31 squadrons, 11 less than the minimum number of jets the Centre believes are required to tackle both Pakistan and China, The Times of India reported.

Lockheed Martin has positioned the newest Block 70 variant of its F-16 aircraft for the Indian Air Force, while Boeing has offered its F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III for the Indian Navy. The Indian Air Force has current strength of 34 fight squadrons against the authorised strength of 42 squadrons.

A spokesman for Dassault Aviation which makes the twin-engine Rafale declined to comment. 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. 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. He was referring to the 2015 decision to buy Rafale fighter jets in a government-to-government deal, after cancelling the tender for 126 fighters under the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) deal.

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