The Indian Air Force has 31 fighter squadrons as against authorised strength of 42.
India on Friday began a process to acquire a fleet of around 110 fighter jets in one of the biggest such procurement in recent years globally which could be worth over $15 billion.
A Request for Information or initial tender for the mega deal was issued by the Indian Air Force and the procurement will be in sync with the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative in the defence sector, officials said.
It is the first mega procurement initiative for fighter jets after the government scrapped the process to acquire 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft for the IAF around five years ago.
Instead, the National Democratic Alliance government, in September 2016, signed an €7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets.
Though the RFI said approximately 110 aircraft are being procured, defence ministry officials put the number at 114 jets.
According to the RFI, three-quarters of the total jets will be single seat aircraft while the rest will be twin-seat.
At least 85 per cent of the aircraft will have to be made in India while 15 per cent of them can be in flyaway condition.
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.
Leading military aircraft producers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Saab, Dassault and Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG are among the competitors which are likely to vie for the mega deal.
An official said the deal could be worth over $15 billion.
According to the RFI, aircraft manufacturers interested in the deal will have to send their proposals by July 6.
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. Currently, IAF has 31 fighter squadrons as against authorised strength of 42 squadrons.
The UPA government had floated a tender in 2007 for purchase of 126 MMRCA for the Air Force and, post negotiations, two of them--Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon -- remained in the reckoning. However, the deal could not be finalised by the United Progressive Alliance regime.
In September last year, Swedish defence giant Saab and Indian conglomerate Adani group had announced a collaboration, mainly eyeing the contract for the fighter jet deal. US aerospace major Lockheed Martin has joined hands with India’s Tata Advanced Systems to build the planes in India.