Bangalore: The first batch of the medium range multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) will very likely be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) by 2012, according to
Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major. The MMRCA are intended to modernise and replenish the IAFs operational fleet and will primarily replace an ageing force of MiG-21 and other class of fighters.
'All going well I am looking at the first induction of MMRCA by 2012-13. The delivery begins 48 months after the contract is signed. Evaluation of the aircraft will take at least two-three years,' ACM FH Major told reporters on the sidelines of a defence function.
India's ministry of defence floated a global tender last month, issuing a RFP (request for proposals) to global aerospace majors such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing of the US, Saab of Sweden, MiG Design Bureau of Russia and the Eurofighter consortium, for the purchase and co-production of 126 MMRCA.
'The suppliers are given time till March 2008 to submit their bids. We will be taking another two-three years to evaluate the RFPs. Short listing of the aircraft and the supplier will take place after that for signing the contract,' Major said on the sidelines of a seminar on Helicopter technology, organised by the Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies & Industries (SIATI).
The overall project is estimated to be worth about $10 billion over its lifetime. The contract will include the supply of 18 aircraft in flyaway condition and the licensed manufacture of 108 fighters by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The offset clause will also ensure that Indian aerospace firms from the public and private sectors will supply sub-systems and components to the winning bidder.
IAF is also looking forward to induct other force multipliers, such as the Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) by August 2008 and more IL-78 air-to-air refuelling aircraft from Russia next year.
Talking about the proposed space command, the air chief also said that the IAF was open to involving the other two services - army and navy - for setting up a joint command.
'The setting up of a space or joint command is a complex process and will take time. More than a dedicated military satellite, we want sensors in the sky to see how far we can go or not. The sensors will be able to identify target that may be about 5,000 km away.'
For instance, naval ships sail more than 10,000 km. 'Among the three services, maritime operations by navy require more data and information about the enemy's position on real-time basis,' Major pointed out.
Referring to the recent agreement with Russia for designing and developing a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), Major said such advanced jets would not only arm the IAF with the latest fighting machines, but also help update the Indian aerospace industry with cutting-edge technology.
Admitting that the decline in the number of squadrons to 32, from the required 39-40, was a cause for concern, ACM Major said acquisitions and modernisation would be stepped up to increase the fleet level as well as to maintain operational preparedness.