Amid a big push for the Aatmanirbhar Bharat scheme by the PM Narendra Modi-led government, the Indian Air Force is planning to acquire 114 fighter jets of which 96 would be built in India, and rest 18 would be imported from the foreign vendor chosen for the project. The Indian Air Force has plans of acquiring 114 Multirole Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) under ‘Buy Global and Make in India’ scheme under which Indian companies would be allowed to partner with a foreign vendor.
“Recently, the Indian Air Force held meetings with the foreign vendors and asked them about the way they would carry out the Make in India project,” government sources told ANI. As per the plan, after the initial 18 aircraft are imported, the next 36 aircraft would be manufactured within the country and the payments would be made partially in foreign currency and Indian currency, the sources said.
The last 60 aircraft would be the main responsibility of the Indian partner and the government would make payments only in Indian currency, the sources said. The payment in Indian currency would help the vendors to achieve the over 60 percent ‘Make-in-India’ content in the project, the sources said. Global aircraft manufacturers including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Saab, MiG, Irkut Corporation and Dassault Aviation are expected to participate in the tender.
The Indian Air Force has to rely heavily on these 114 fighter jets for maintaining its superiority over the neighbouring rivals Pakistan and China. The 36 Rafale aircraft procured under emergency orders helped immensely in maintaining an edge over the Chinese during the Ladakh crisis which started in 2020 but the numbers are not enough and more such capability would be required by it.
The force has already placed orders for 83 of the LCA Mk 1A aircraft but it still requires a higher number of capable aircraft as a large number of MiG series planes have either been phased out or are on their last legs. The fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft project is moving ahead at a satisfactory pace but it will take a lot of time to be able to be inducted in an operational role.
The IAF is also looking for a cost-effective solution for its fighter jet requirement as it wants a plane that is low on operational cost and gives more capability to the service, the sources said. The IAF is highly satisfied with the operational availability of the Rafale fighter jets and wants similar capability in its future aircraft.