New Delhi: India has finally set the ball rolling for its multi-billion dollar ‘Make in India’ project to produce 114 single or twin-engine fighter jets with foreign collaboration.The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday issued the initial tender or RFI (request for information) to global aviation majors to set up the new fighter production line with an Indian partner, in addition to the existing one for the indigenous Tejas fighters, as part of the endeavour to stem its fast-depleting number of fighter squadrons.
The RFI comes after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) scrapped its own two-year-old plan to produce 114 single-engine fighters with foreign collaboration at an estimated cost of Rs 1.15 lakh crore, as was first reported by TOI in February.
The MoD had asked IAF, down to just 31 fighter squadrons (each with 18 jets) when at least 42 are required to tackle the “collusive threat” from Pakistan and China, to come up with a new proposal that would take both single and twin-engine fighters into account.
“The original plan placed an unnecessary restriction on only single-engine fighters, which limited the competition to just two jets (American F-16 and Swedish Gripen-E). The aim is to increase the contenders and avoid needless allegations later,” said a source.
But the RFI is just the first step towards the long-drawn selection process, under which an Indian company will tie-up with a foreign original equipment manufacturer to set up the fighter production line in accordance with the defence ministry’s “strategic partnership” policy.