Modi government offers to buy 200 foreign combat jets…if they’re Made-in-India

The Indian Air Force is desperately trying to speed up other acquisitions and arrest a fall in operational strength, now a third less than required to face both China and Pakistan.

By: Reuters | New Delhi | Updated: October 29, 2016 6:13 pm
India fighter planes, India foreign jets, Rafale aircraft, India Rafale, Indian Air Force, India rafale deal Dassault Rafale fighter jets fly over the Pyramid of the Louvre Museum as part of a rehearsal of the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris, France, July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

India is offering to buy hundreds of fighter planes from foreign manufacturers – as long as the jets are made in India and with a local partner, air force officials say. A deal for 200 single-engine planes produced in India – which the air force says could rise to 300 as it fully phases out ageing Soviet-era aircraft – could be worth anything from $13-$15 billion, experts say, potentially one of the country’s biggest military aircraft deals. After a deal to buy high-end Rafale planes from France’s Dassault was scaled back to just 36 jets last month, the Indian Air Force is desperately trying to speed up other acquisitions and arrest a fall in operational strength, now a third less than required to face both China and Pakistan.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration wants any further military planes to be built in India with an Indian partner to kickstart a domestic aircraft industry, and end an expensive addiction to imports. Lockheed Martin said it is interested in setting up a production line for its F-16 plane in India for not just the Indian military, but also for export.

And Sweden’s Saab has offered a rival production line for its Gripen aircraft, setting up an early contest for one of the biggest military plane deals in play.

“The immediate shortfall is 200. That would be the minimum we would be looking at,” said an air officer briefed on the Make-in-India plans under which a foreign manufacturer will partner local firms to build the aircraft with technology transfer.

India’s defence ministry has written to several companies asking if they would be willing to set up an assembly line for single-engine fighter planes in India and the amount of technology transfer that would happen, another government source said.

“We are testing the waters, testing the foreign firms’ willingness to move production here and to find out their expectations,” the person said.

OPERATIONAL GAPS

India’s air force originally planned for 126 Rafale twin-engine fighters from Dassault, but the two sides could not agree on the terms of local production with a state-run Indian firm and settled for 36 planes in a fly-away condition.

Adding to the military’s problems is India’s three-decade effort to build a single-engine fighter of its own which was meant to be the backbone of the air force. Only two of those Light Combat Aircraft, called Tejas, have been delivered to the air force which has ordered 140 of them.

The Indian Air Force is down to 32 operational squadrons compared with the 45 it has said are necessary, and in March the vice chief Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa told parliament’s defence committee that it didn’t have the operational strength to fight a two front war against China and Pakistan.

JET MAKERS RESPOND

Saab said it was ready to not only produce its frontline Gripen fighter in India, but help build a local aviation industry base.

“We are very experienced in transfer of technology – our way of working involves extensive cooperation with our partners to establish a complete ecosystem, not just an assembly line,” said Jan Widerström, Chairman and Managing Director, Saab India Technologies.

He confirmed Saab had received the letter from the Indian government seeking a fourth generation fighter. A source close to the company said that while there was no minimum order set in stone for it to lay down a production line, they would expect to build at least 100 planes at the facility.

Lockheed Martin said it had responded to the defence ministry’s letter with an offer to transfer the entire production of its F-16 fighter to India.

“Exclusive F-16 production in India would make India home to the world’s only F-16 production facility, a leading exporter of advanced fighter aircraft, and offer Indian industry the opportunity to become an integral part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft supply chain,” Abhay Paranjape, National Executive for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Business Development in India said in an email.

U.S. TOP SUPPLIER
Lockheed’s offer comes on the back of expanding U.S.-India military ties in which Washington has emerged as India’s top arms supplier in recent years, ousting old ally Russia.

Earlier this year Boeing also offered India its twin-engine F/A-18 Hornets, but the level of technology transfer was not clear. India has never previously attempted to build a modern aircraft production line, whether military or civilian. State-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has assembled Russian combat jets including the Su-30, but these are under licensed production.

“We have never had control over technology. This represents the most serious attempt to build a domestic base. A full or a near-full tech transfer lays the ground for further development,” said retired Indian air marshal M. Matheswaran, a former adviser at HAL.

He said the Indian government would be looking at producing at least 200 fighters, and then probably some more, to make up for the decades of delay in modernising the air force.

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First Published on: October 29, 2016 3:38 pm
  1. P
    Parabin
    Jan 30, 2017 at 7:12 pm
    Indian needs are for the a 5th gen aircraft presently. 4th is pe. Indian scientists are by far an ineffective lot. They need to rise up to the occasion. Period.
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      Alex
      Oct 29, 2016 at 9:08 pm
      Why are they not m producing LCA Tejas for a start.lt;br/gt;What is point of make in India if Tejas are not m produced. Shake up the HAL to increase production to atleast 24-36 per year. HAL is dragging its feet in all project. Now where is LCH m production just simply buying overseas stuff all the time.
      Reply
      1. A
        Ares Roy
        Oct 29, 2016 at 7:15 pm
        @gopal ... Congress brought independence ?? .... joke of the day ....LOL ... you should join 'The Kapil Sharma Show'
        Reply
        1. A
          Amit
          Oct 29, 2016 at 5:38 pm
          Only American companies intrested y we will not combine with Russia. They have the toughest flying records and integral part of INDIA. US have two faces we all know that.
          Reply
          1. S
            Saurabh
            Oct 29, 2016 at 1:25 pm
            Master stroke by Modi government.
            Reply
            1. S
              SubbuI
              Oct 29, 2016 at 5:10 pm
              THIS TOO APPEARS LIKE ELECTION JUMLA BY NALYAK NMODI WHO SOLD DREAMS AND BECOME PRIME MINISTER. NOW HE IS SELLING DIFFERENT KIND OF DREAM WHICH IS TO COVER UP HIS FAILED MAKE IN INDIA -BUBBERSHER JUHADC. FROM MAUTH KI SAUDHAKAR TO SAPNO KE SOYDHAKAR TO KHHON KI DALAL. HE IS AN ACE BLUFF MASTER. One of the most inefficient Prime Minister even worse than Dev Gauda! Shame on this goon
              Reply
              1. J
                John
                Oct 29, 2016 at 10:29 am
                SAAB GRIPEN will be a good choice. NAL, HAL and ADA can learn from it, too. Good move guys, it shortens the learning curve too for HAL, if they need to set up our own lines for m-production of LCA.
                Reply
                1. A
                  aks
                  Oct 29, 2016 at 11:16 am
                  It's time. The decades of inaction and compromise with operational readiness of the forces through inaction and corruption, a halmark of all congress govts dating back to Nehru, needs to be undone. All the might to Mr Modi.
                  Reply
                  1. W
                    W.R.
                    Oct 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm
                    Maybe we look across the border, JF-17, I am sure stan can offer us if we are willing to buy. So called Make in India will come true.
                    Reply
                    1. B
                      Bala Kamath
                      Oct 29, 2016 at 11:14 am
                      Congress rule has severely handicapped our armed forces. Under Sonia's reign and St. Anthony's stewardship saw a nadir in Defence procurement and preparedness. Congress should aplogise for this predicameng to the nation.
                      Reply
                      1. B
                        Bala Kamath
                        Oct 29, 2016 at 11:16 am
                        Some were doubting our armed forces. Now, if we don't trust Rauters whom do we believe ? Congress spokeperspns ?
                        Reply
                        1. A
                          ashwin
                          Oct 29, 2016 at 12:35 pm
                          Why not build good roads, toilets provide electricity, saftey, employment ..........there Wil be no war for sure....because we don't have oil like middle east got.....so no US Russiia France brit etc...would never have interest in war on our soil..
                          Reply
                          1. D
                            Deeply Concerned
                            Oct 29, 2016 at 11:27 am
                            If BJP is so serious in India's development, then why is it opposing the SC choice of good calibre judges and trying to saffronize judiciary ???
                            Reply
                            1. E
                              edward
                              Oct 30, 2016 at 9:05 am
                              Haha.....that's a real good one WR
                              Reply
                              1. E
                                edward
                                Oct 30, 2016 at 9:04 am
                                Which master stroke Saurabh?
                                Reply
                                1. L
                                  lafanga
                                  Oct 29, 2016 at 11:16 am
                                  Are bhai ... why trying to outspend each other to buy planes which will never be used. China, stan and India are all nuclear countries so no chance of a full war. Use the money to build some toilets instead.
                                  Reply
                                  1. G
                                    Gopal Das
                                    Oct 30, 2016 at 2:56 pm
                                    The single engine fighter aircraft may be divided between SAAB Gripes NG for one hundred and F-16 two hundred, a total of three hundred. F-16V is the latest model. F-16s is not the latest. So while ordering latest model should be considered. In this fast changing world technology latest tech is the best option.
                                    Reply
                                    1. B
                                      BharatK
                                      Oct 29, 2016 at 10:55 am
                                      This is Reuters News. Take it with a pinch of salt.
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        Sankaran Krishnan
                                        Oct 29, 2016 at 1:10 pm
                                        Yes it is good to look at this way to make our dream to "Make in India" which will be an boost to the Manufacturing sector with ancillary industries also flourishing through such technology transfer and it is advantage to India and its Defence Forces !!!
                                        Reply
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                                          Devisahai Meena
                                          Oct 29, 2016 at 12:15 pm
                                          In Rafale jet fighters from Dault thru french govt. , Ambanis received 20,000 crore business (off set ) and in this proposed purchase , Modi want a Indian partner , to give it "Make in India " label/cover . Indian partner will be none other than Ambanis.
                                          Reply
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                                            Arun Kumar
                                            Oct 29, 2016 at 3:47 pm
                                            In lacks in aviation technology, it has capable manpower. In secretly guarded aviation technology our efforts have so far not been successful. An alliance with reputed aviation industry is the need of hour. Many indians are serving in big aircraft firms who have studied in EU and USA, the brainshort politicians of BJP first call them for expert advice for changes in courses of aviation / aircraft engineering in IITs and upgrading labs. Then call for technology transfer.
                                            Reply
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