Three companies -- France’s Dassault Aviation, America’s Boeing and Swedish Saab -- are the main contenders the Indian Air Force’s multi-billion-dollar contract for 114 fighter jets, according to reports. The IAF had in 2018 issued a Request for Information (RFI) after its previous bid to procure 126 fighter jets was cancelled, following the deal for 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition, reported ThePrint.
ThePrint quoted top sources in the defence establishment as saying that the main competition is between the Dassault’s Rafale, Boeing’s F/A-18 and the Saab Gripen.
The IAF has finalised the Air Staff Quality Requirements (ASQR) for the fighter programme and has moved the file for getting the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) from the Ministry of Defence.
“With the elections round the corner, the IAF expects to get the AON immediately once the new government is sworn in. The IAF expects the EOI to be issued by the second quarter of this year and the RFP by the last quarter,” a top source said.
The report added that a total of seven companies had responded to the RFI, including two companies each from the US and Russia. Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70, Dassault’s Rafale F3R, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen E, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35 and Sukhoi Corporation’s Su-35 were the ones who responded.
According to officials, the RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender is for joint production of the aircraft 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.
The IAF has been pressing for expediting the process to acquire the aircraft citing declining strength of its fighter squadron as some of the ageing jets are being phased out.
In September 2016, India had signed an Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets. The IAF was keen on a follow-on order of 36 additional Rafales. However, the government is yet to take a decision on it.