In a bid to upgrade military hardware and arrest a fall in operational strength, the Narendra Modi government is offering to buy hundreds of fighter aircrafts from foreign manufacturers. But as long as the jets are made in India and with a local partner, according to air force officials. The air force says a deal for 200 single-engine planes produced in India – could eventually rise to 300 – as India fully phases out ageing Soviet-era aircrafts. The deal could be well worth anything between USD 13-15 billion, say experts, potentially making it one of India’s biggest military aircraft deals.
Here is what you need to know:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. India’s military’s problems were compounded when it’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.
5. The deal assumes more strategic importance as in March this year 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
(With inputs from Reuters)