New jets won't join IAF anytime soon

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The Ministry of Defence had asked the Air Force to come up with a proposal for the manufacture of both single and twin-engine fighters.

An official said the deal could be worth over $15 billion.

At least 85 per cent of the aircraft will have to be made in India while 15 per cent of them can be in a flyaway condition. The RFI, which lists single as well as twin engine aircraft requirement thus opens the doors for a larger global competition, which would, in turn, translate into a modern, multirole fighter.

On Friday, the IAF issued a request for information (RFI) - the first step to acquiring a weapons platform. 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.

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Leading military aircraft producers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Saab and Dassault are among the competitors which are likely to vie for the mega deal.

"The OEM along with the SP/IPA is to propose a performance-based logistics package for an aircraft availability of 75% with an average flying effort of 150 hrs per aircraft per year for a period of ten years", the RFI read.

While offshoring both the F-16 and F/A-18 assembly lines would appear to contradict Trumps promise to create more manufacturing jobs in the United States, nuances in that policy could open a window of opportunity, Atlantic Council said.

The IAF is in urgent need of new fighter jets as its operational strength has depleted with just 31 squadrons, as against the 42 it needs to counter the combined threat from Pakistan and China. Instead, the NDA government had signed a deal of 7.87 billion euros (about Rs 59,000 crore) with the French government to purchase 36 Rafael Double-engine fighter planes in September 2016. The latest RFI comes on the backdrop of an ongoing procurement of Rafale fighter jets from France and a delayed induction homemade Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. However, the government is yet to take a decision on it. With talks stalling over price and quality guarantees, the government scrapped the purchase in 2015 and bought 36 jets separately to speed up the process.

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