After selecting the Rafale in a direct buy from France and scrapping the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender for 126 aircraft, India is likely to recompete the program, inviting bidders to compete on the production of 90 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. The Air Force requires at least 126 aircraft to replace aging fighter jets to be withdrawn from service in the coming decade. Although India agreed to buy 36 Rafales directly from France, the air force needs the remaining 90 aircraft to replace hundreds of its MiG-21, 27 and Jaguars reaching the end of their service life.
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is expected to be drafted soon after the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) comes in place.
Although not as big as the original 126 aircraft MMRCA tender, the new program is expected to be one of the biggest projects under the ‘Make in India’ campaign, as the cost of the programme is expected to be around $30 billion. Out of the 90 aircraft, 54 will be single-seaters and the remaining 36 tandem-seaters. The base order will be for 90 aircraft with an option for 45 additional fighters as a follow-on order.
According to the sources, the RFP will recompete the types that have already been evaluated by the IAF. These included Russia’s MIG-35 (RAC MiG), Swedish Gripen, French Dassault Rafale, American Lockheed Martin F-16IN and Boeing’s F/A-18IN Super Hornet and Typhoon made by the European Eurofighter consortium.
BAE Systems has cut its production cost by 20 per cent while upgrading some features. Saab has also said there are chances for the re-introduction of Gripen in India, with Gripens offered under ‘Make-in-India’ or as new and assembled aircraft to India, to replenish obsolete fighters. Russian sources also claim Moscow is willing to put the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft FGFA) on the fast track, anticipating orders from New Delhi toward the end of the decade.
While the president of France and Indian Prime Minister agreed in principle on the supply of 36 French Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jets to India, the contract nas not been signed yet, as the sides have not reached an agreement on the share of offset India will receive. France insists that the offset clause would raise the cost and delay deliveries. India demands a higher than regular level of 50 percent, rather that the standard 30 percent reinvestment required for large deals.