Lockheed hails India's procurement idea for over 100 fighter jets

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The tender will be open for makers of both single engine and twin-engined combat jets, in a widening of the field.

The major contenders for the competition are likely to be American Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin's F-16 V5, French Dassault Rafale, Swedish Saab's Gripen, Russian MiG-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon. At least 85 per cent of the jets - three-quarters of which are single-seat aircraft and the rest twin-seat - have to be made in India and manufacturers interested in bidding need to send their proposals by July 6, according to the government.

American aerospace and defence major Lockheed Martin has welcomed Indias mega procurement initiative for fighter jets worth over Dollars 15 billion and said that it looks forward to responding to the initial tender. The RFI spelt out that a maximum of 16 flyaway aircraft would be purchased from the global manufacturer and the rest are to be made in India under a strategic partnership model. The multi-role combat aircraft will be expected to fulfil roles that include establishing air superiority, perform air defence and air to surface operations, conduct reconnaissance, undertake maritime operations, and electronic warfare capable among other attributes.

Currently, the IAF has 31 fighter squadrons as against authorised strength of 42 squadrons.

According to estimates, some 400 aircraft will be going out of service in the next decade. The deal is said to eventually to cost at least Rs 100,000 crores.

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India began its search for new planes for the Indian air force in 2003 to replace its Soviet-era MiG fighters.

India started looking for new warplanes in 2007, a search that ended with the government selecting Dassault Aviation for the supply of 126 Rafale jets for $11 billion.

While the initial delivery of the aircraft in flyway condition from the OEM would commence within 36 months, the entire delivery will have to be completed before 60 months from the date of signing of the contract.

"The two aircraft have been positioned complementarily, and the purchase of the pair is an interesting proposition for policymakers from both countries", US-based think-tank Atlantic Council said in a report released in New Delhi yesterday.

The F-16 production line will be used to service the orders from the Indian Air Force, as well as any follow-on global orders.