The request for proposal (RFP) for 126 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) may likely be issued by July, reports quoting government officials suggest. This year marks the sixth since a request for information (RFI) was issued for the tender in 2001.
The tender itself is believed to be valued at around $9 billion (Rs.370 billion).
'There are certain procedural issues that need to be resolved before we float a request for proposal (RFP) for the aircraft,' reports quote an official as saying. 'This should happen in a month or two.' The official was speaking on condition of anonymity.
The 'issues,' according to the official, relates to areas like calculating life-cycle costs, the manner in which the offsets policy governing defence purchases will be implemented, and transfer of technology (TOT).
Under an offset clause, as laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure-2006 (DPP-2006), 30 per cent of all military deals worth more than Rs.3 billion has to be reinvested in the country. Calculating life-cycle costs, according to the official, is another challenge for India's defence planners, as this aspect had never been factored in earlier.
As for TOT, the country had not insisted on technology transfers in the past but this too has now been made mandatory.
The IAF needs a new generation of aircraft to ramp up its depleting fleet of Soviet-era MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27 aircraft. While the MiG-21 has undergone a mid-life upgrade to increase its service life, the MiG-23 has already been retired, and the MiG-27 is on the verge of being phased out.
The indigenously developed Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) has also suffered time overruns.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary panel has remarked adversely on the delays in acquiring the new aircraft, and has also referred to the 'stereotyped' answers it has received on the issue. The standing committee on defence has expressed its 'deep concern on this stereotype reply being furnished by the ministry for the past 2-3 years and the same has not been turned into reality so far.
'The committee, therefore, desires that the ministry of defence should strive hard to expedite the completion of procedures and technicalities in order to facilitate the proposed acquisition of 126 aircraft,' it said in its reported tabled in parliament on Saturday.
The IAF was operating 39 1/2 squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 45 when a RFI was sent out in 2001.