News IAF speeds up hunt for new fighter jets to add muscle

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The Indian Air Force will invite proposals in a month, link purchase with building of indigenous stealth jet

by Rahul Singh

India floated a global tender for 126 planes more than a decade ago but it was cancelled after PM Narendra Modi declared in 2015 that India would directly buy 36 Rafale jets from France.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is likely to start the process of inviting foreign military contractors to build fighter jets in the country under the government’s Make in India plan in the next four weeks , a person familiar with the project said.

This multi-billion-dollar project to build 114 jets will be “directly linked” to the development of an indigenous futuristic stealth fighter – the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), the person added.

The air force plans to issue a request for information (RFI) before DefExpo-2018 — a military systems exhibition by the defence ministry — opens in Chennai on April 11.

“The document will not specify the number of engines the jets should have, leaving the field open for makers of both single- and twin-engine planes,” said the person who asked not to be named.

An earlier plan involved pursuing two separate projects to build single-engine and twin-engine fighters in India but that distinction has been discarded now.

The RFI is the first step towards finding a new warplane for the air force and global plane manufacturers will respond to it with operational features and technical parameters of their platforms. That will pave the way for the air force to make a case for getting the ministry’s ‘acceptance of necessity’ (AoN) – the government’s stamp of approval to pursue a military program.

“After the AoN comes, we could either opt for a government-to-government deal or put out a tender. Both options are open at this stage,” said a senior officer tracking the air force’s modernisation on the condition of anonymity.

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