The order announced on Friday could be worth at least US$15 billion, and will be the world's largest fighter aircraft deal, said Rahul Bedi, a New Delhi-based analyst at Jane's Information Services. The Ministry of Defence had asked the Air Force to come up with a proposal for the manufacture of both single and twin-engine fighters. A request for proposal will then be issued followed by bid evaluations and contract negotiations.
According to Air Force sources, manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing of the United States, Dassault of France, SAAB of Sweden, European consortium Eurofighter and MiG of Russian Federation are expected to compete.
The latest tender states that 85 per cent of the 110 aircraft will be built in India with a total of 75 per cent of total aircraft to be in the single seat category.
The order would be worth between $9-13 billion (Rs 584-844 billion) making it the world's biggest worldwide fighter buy.
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"85 per cent will have to be made in India by a Strategic Partne/Indian Production Agency", the Air Force said. An India partnership presents a way to sustain F-16 production, with all the economic and strategic benefits that result, it said. IAF intends to use the aircraft as day and night -capable, all-weather, multi-role combat aircraft.
Currently, the IAF has 31 fighter squadrons as against authorised strength of 42 squadrons.
The RFI comes in the backdrop of the ongoing procurement of Rafale fighter jets from France and a delayed induction of the home-made Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. India started looking for new warplanes in 2007, a contest that ended with the government selecting Dassault Aviation to supply 126 Rafale jets for $11 billion. During French President Emanuel Macron's visit to India in March, there were speculations that India would initiate deal for 36 more Rafale fighter jets. With talks stalling over price and quality guarantees, the government scrapped the purchase in 2015 and bought 36 jets separately to speed up the process.
Lockheed Martin has positioned the newest Block 70 variant of its F-16 aircraft for the Indian Air Force, while Boeing has offered its F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III for the Indian Navy.
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