New Delhi: Having rejected indigenously built ‘Tejas’ as too heavy, the Indian Navy has launched a Request for Information to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its carrier.
Last month, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba had said the “present LCA does not meet the carrier capability required by the Navy”.
He had said the service would continue to support its development but “at the same time we will seek aircraft elsewhere which can operate on the aircraft carrier”.
The RFI, dated January 17, says the aircraft are “intended as day-and-night capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air defence, air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance etc. from IN aircraft carriers”.
The companies have been asked to respond by May. While it has not been specified whether the Navy wants single-engine or twin-engine multi-role carrier-borne fighters, sources said that given the role mentioned, the aircraft will be a medium-to-heavy, twin-engine one.
At present, the Navy operates 45 MIG-29K jets, which from time-to-time face serviceability issues.
Currently, six planes are compatible for aircraft carrier flying. They are Rafale (Dassault, France), F-18 Super Hornet (Boeing, US), MIG-29K (Russia), F-35B and F-35C (Lockheed Martin, US) and Gripen (Saab, Sweden).
While F-18, Rafale and MIG-29K are twin engine jets, the remaining three have single engine.
The government also wants to manufacture these planes in India and tender has asked the original equipment manufacturers to respond to it.
It also sought to know at what level of Transfer of Technology (ToT) and deep repair expertise the company is willing to share with India.
It also asked the vendor to specify critical technologies required and comment on its ability to absorb the aircraft manufacturing technology at the levels of sub vendor/supply chain elements in India through ToT from OEM and its partners.
As regards the delivery schedule, the first lot of jets have to be delivered in three years after inking of the contract and all the 57 have to be delivered in the next three years.