Six companies are applying for the supply of the Indian Air Force's new fighters
Six of the world's leading aircraft manufacturers responded to a request sent on 6 April by the Ministry of Defense of India to provide information on the possibility of supplying the Air Force of India with 110 multipurpose fighters.
According to the Indian media, by July 6, four manufacturers submitted proposals for the supply of twin-engine fighters
(F/A-18E/F Super Hornet of Boeing, Rafale of French Dassault, Typhoon of the Eurofighter consortium and MiG-35 RSK MiG), two more applicants were offered single-engine fighters (Gripen E of Swedish Saab and F-16 Block 70 of Lockheed Martin Corporation). All six applicants participated in the tender for the supply of the Indian Air Force 126 medium-sized multipurpose combat aircraft (MMRCA) in 2007, which was canceled in April 2015. Instead, the Ministry of Defense of India signed a contract for the purchase of 36 Rafael fighters of Dassault. According to representatives of the Indian Air Force, the replies received will be "technical appraisal", after which within 6-9 months applicants will be sent requests for proposals containing updated requirements for the platform and armament.
The request for proposals will also specify the selection criteria, incl. whether the platforms will be priced by the cost of delivery or the cost of the life cycle, based on a 40-year service life or 6000 flight hours. Platforms of shortlisted applicants will be tested, followed by negotiations on cost and technology transfer. According to the request, 17 fighters will be purchased from the manufacturer in the finished form, the remaining 93 - produced under the license of the Indian company chosen by the strategic partner in accordance with the "Procurement Procedure for Defense Products 2016" (DPP-2016). The delivery of the first fighters will begin 36 months after the signing of the contract and will be completed within 60 months. The delivery of 93 platforms under license will begin 60 months after the conclusion of the agreement and will be completed within 144 months. In the long term, the number of aircraft purchased can double.
According to the request for information, the proposed fighter must perform the tasks of gaining superiority in the air and providing air defense. In addition, aircraft must be able to strike ground targets, conduct reconnaissance, conduct operations at sea, electronic warfare, and refuel other aircraft. The selected manufacturer will have to provide a logistics package that provides 75% readiness for the combat use of fighters, whose average flight time will be 150 hours per month for at least 10 years.
The purpose of purchasing 110 aircraft is to increase the fleet of air force fighters, whose number has decreased from the 42nd to 31st squadron authorized by the government. It is expected that by 2022 this number will be reduced to 23 as a result of the removal from the arsenal of 10-12 squadrons of obsolete MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft (a total of about 180-200 units).
According to the Air Force command, who got acquainted with the proposed aircraft during the MMRCA tender, it would take about 24-30 months to determine the short list of applicants after the technical evaluation and testing. Nevertheless, it is not known how long it will take for the Ministry to select a strategic partner and complete all negotiations on the terms of the contract, the creation of a joint venture and the transfer of technology for the licensed production of fighters. According to the representatives of the Air Force, the Defense Ministry has yet to finalize the details of the requirements for the establishment of the joint venture, which can also have a negative impact on the delivery of fighter aircraft.
According to sources in the industry, the cost of buying 110 fighters is estimated at 15-18 billion dollars. It is obvious that single-engine fighters are cheaper to buy and operate than twin-engine fighters, but less reliable.