The Indian Navy has issued a request for information (RFI) for state-of-the-art, multi-role, new generation carrier-based fighter aircraft to four global aerospace firms, including Swden's SAAB for their fighter the Sea Gripen, which is a navalised version of the Gripen JAS-39.
Other firms and their offerings are the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) for their Eurofighter Typhoon, the Boeing Integrated Defence System for their F/A-18 Super Hornet) and France's Dassault for its Rafale.
If selected, the new aircraft would likely be deployed aboard the Navy's second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC), which is expected to be commissioned around 2018.
Of these four contenders, both the American Super Hornet and the French Rafale have been developed as carrier-based platforms from the conception stage itself. The Typhoon and the Gripen will require a certain amount of modification.
Reports suggest that the Navy may have received clearance from the government for the purchase. The RFI, apparently, does not specify either the number of aircraft that the Navy would wish to acquire, or other modalities such as offset requirements.
The new aircraft, which will be in addition to the 16 Russian-manufactured MiG-29Ks that India is acquiring, as well as the naval version of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, which is currently under development.
As per conjecture, while the MiG-29Ks will operate from the 44,570-tonne Admiral Gorshkov (re-designated INS Vikramaditya), the naval Tejas will operate from the first of the 38,000 tonne IACs, currently under construction at the Kochi shipyard.
The Indian Navy's fighter jet complement consists only of the British-made Sea Harrier jump jets which operate from the aircraft carrier, INS Viraat. The Harriers will continue to operate as long as the Viraat retains operational life, which is till 2019.