India set to approve $20 bn acquisition of 114 fighter jets
03 September 2018
Amidst a row over the deal to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets from French defence firm Dassault, the defence ministry is set to approve the long-drawn acquisition of 114 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), valued over $20 billion (Rs1,40,000 crore).
Under the defence acquisition programme, termed as the “mother of all defence deals”, 18 aircraft will come in a ‘flyaway condition’ in three to five years and the remaining will be produced in India.
Reports quoting defence ministry sources said the Defence Acquisitions Council headed by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to consider “acceptance of necessity (AoN)” for the 114-jet project later this month or early next month.
IAF, which is left with 31 squadrons against is minimum need of 42 squadrons, is in urgent need of new and modern fighters to replace all aging aircraft, most of which are of Soviet made MiG 21s and MiG 29s.
The proposal to grant initial approval to the long-drawn acquisition project for 114 new fighter jets for over $20 billion (Rs 1.4 lakh crore), comes amidst the ongoing political slugfest between BJP and Congress over the Rs59,000 crore contract for 36 French Rafale jets.
Under the new “strategic partnership (SP)” policy 96 of the new fighter jets will be produced in a joint venture between the selected foreign aviation major and its Indian partner.
Meanwhile another contender, Russian Sukhoi-35 fighter, has flown into the competition, joining F/A-18 and F-16 (US), Gripen-E (Sweden), MiG-35 (Russia), Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale for the production contract.
The initial tender or request for information (RFI) published by the Indian Air Force in April for the defence deal, estimates the cost of each bare-bone fighter at around $100 million, with an additional $100 million required for the "add-ons", such as the weapons, simulators and performance-based logistics.
The Indian “strategic partner” will be selected based upon “financial strength, technical capability and capacity/infrastructure”, while the OEM will be chosen in a separate but parallel process primarily on the "range, depth and scope" of the transfer of technology it offers. “Once the AoN is granted to the 114-jet project, the contenders will be given three months to respond to the expression of interest to take things forward.
At the moment, the IAF is facing a deficit of 11 fighter squadrons, as it currently has only 31 fighter squadrons, 18 jets in each. In fact, it requires at least 42 such fighter squadrons to take on the "collusive threat" from China and Pakistan. However, the process for the actual contract for the 114 jets to be signed can take at least four to five years.