In order to make up for the depleting fleet of fighter jets, the Indian Air Force may move a Request for Proposal (RFP) by late 2019-2020 for purchasing 114 fighter aircraft worth Rs 1.25 lakh crore under Make in India. There's also a proposal to buy 56 medium transport aircraft. Both the deals are expected to be worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore ($22 billion).
In 2016 India inked a deal to buy 36 Rafale jets from France for Rs 59,000 crore. The first four Rafale fighters are expected to touch down at the Ambala Air Force Station next year after the IAF completes its induction training for 10 pilots, 10 engineers and 40 technicians in France.
Sources privy to the development told The Times of India that the 36 Rafale fighter jets and even the indigenous Tejas light aircraft (126 of which are to be inducted) will not be able to make up for the fast depleting fighter squadrons (IAF currently has 30 while 42 are required).
Pertinently, IAF had sought 126 medium-multirole combat aircraft in 2000 and the preliminary tender for acquiring 112 fighter jets was floated in 2016. Under the Defence Ministry's strategic partnership model, IAF will see the induction of 114 fighter jets worth over Rs 1.25 crore. It includes Rafale, F/A-18 and F-16 (US), MiG-35 and Sukhoi-35 (Russia), Gripen-E (Sweden) and Eurofighter Typhoon.
"The ASQRs (air staff qualitative requirements) for the 114 jets have been finalised after discussions with the vendors. IAF will soon move the defence acquisitions council (DAC) for acceptance of necessity and issuance of the RFP. But the entire selection process will take at least five years," sources told TOI.
Make in India project for induction of C-295 aircraft
The IAF will also see a replacement of its ageing AN-32 fleet, which recently witnessed two major accidents, with tactical C-295 aircraft being built under the Tata-Airbus joint venture. While the first 16 aircraft will be manufactured by Airbus, the rest 40 will be built in India over a period of eight years.
"The C-295 has higher safety margins for flying over oceans and mountainous terrain. For instance, it has a very high single-engine drift down altitude... Even if one engine fails, it can maintain 17,000-18,000 feet altitude. The aircraft can also find buyers in the civil aviation sector," officials said.