In a move that is likely to bolster the capabilities of the Indian Air Force (IAF), India has begun the process to purchase 114 fighter jets. This is the world’s biggest deal in play. The deal, valued at more than $15 billion, has already attracted initial offers from several global leading companies in manufacturing fighter jets, including Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Sweden’s Saab AB. As per an initial document, at least 85 per cent of the aircraft manufacture has to be in India. This move by Modi government shall address the Indian Air force’s requirements to maintain a formidable combat aircraft fleet.
This is part of a larger strategy of the Modi government to strengthen its air force given a history of conflicts with its neighbours and escalations in the past, the most recent one being in February when Indian fighter jets confronted Pakistan’s aerial offence one day after India carried out air raids in Balakot. As per Minister of State for Defence, Shripad Yesso Naik, the process of evaluation of initial bids and finalising the Air Force’s requirements has already begun. Apart from this fighter jet purchase, India is also drafting initial documents to acquire tanks and armoured vehicles. Modi government has also asked foreign shipbuilders to show interest in manufacturing submarines. Recently, it was reported that India is all set to buy warships worth $2.2 billion. India has sought bids for the purchase of warships and support vessels for its Navy and Coast Guard in an attempt to ramp up its maritime firepower in the Indian Ocean region. This massive purchase includes the “Buy Indian” acquisition of six Next Generation Missile Vehicles (NGMV) for the Indian Navy. It also includes eight Fast Patrol Vessels (FPV), 12 Air Cushion Vehicles (ACV) and eight ammunition barges for the Coast Guard. The move to start the process of purchasing 114 fighter jets comes at a crucial time for India.
According to the government, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy are currently in need of 400 single- and double-engine combat aircraft. In such a situation, the government did not really have an option but to go ahead with a major fighter jets deal in order to fulfil the requirements of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
As per latest reports, Boeing is partnering with India’s state run HAL and Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd. for a deal offering its fighter jet, F/A-18. Another defence manufacturing major, Lockheed will join hands with the Tata group and offer its F-21 fighter jets. Saab is also reported to be interested in this deal and has reportedly teamed up with billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani to offer its Gripen jets.
The initial offers have come as a welcome development for India. As such India has a number of offers to choose from. Once this process is done with, the IAF capabilities will be bolstered like never before. The delivery of Rafale fighter jets is also expected to commence this year. A little more than a month into its second tenure, the Modi government is already living up to its promise of strengthening India’s military forces.