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WHICH FIGHTER JET SHOULD INDIA BUY?

Finally, the cat is out of the bag, so to speak! The Indian bigwigs have given the nod to the Air Force to float the tender (RFP) for 126 fighter aircraft. In the fray for the Indian order are the American F-16 and the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Russian MiG-35, the French Rafale, the European Eurofighter and the Swedish Gripen. We have also included the specifications of the French Rafale below. The IAF is likely to float the RPF by the end of July 2207.

So now the sparring will start in right earnest. However, the acquisition process is likely to be long and stringent and a timeframe of 5 years before the first aircraft enters India is being projected. The MOD press release had this to say:

"The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony has cleared the process for the procurement of 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force. During its meeting here today, the DAC debated various issues related to the initial purchase, transfer of technology, licensed production and life time maintenance support for the 126 MMRCA and gave the final go-ahead for the project.

In pursuant to the recent assurance given by the Defence Minister for an early issue of the much awaited Request for Proposal (RFP) for the 126 fighter jets, the Ministry of Defence and Indian Air Force officers have been working overtime to scrutinize all aspects of the RFP. In view of the size and operational importance of the likely purchase, the criteria for selecting the final MMRCA contender from amongst some of the best combat aircraft offered by American, Russian and European companies, has been fine tuned. The RFP would contain a selection model that would involve an exhaustive evaluation process as detailed in the Defence Procurement Procedures — 2006.

The proposals from the likely contenders would first be technically evaluated by a professional team to check for compliance with IAF’s operational requirements and other RFP conditions. Extensive field trials would be carried out to evaluate the performance. Finally, the commercial proposal of the vendors, short-listed after technical and field evaluations, would be examined and compared. The aircraft are likely to be in service for over 40 years. The vendors are required to provide a life time support and performance based warranty for the aircraft. MoD officials have confirmed that great care has been taken to ensure that only determinable factors, which do not lend themselves to any subjectivity, are included in the commercial selection model. The selection would be transparent and fair.

The DAC has approved that a majority of the MMRCA would be produced in India under transfer of technology. The vendor finally selected would also b e required to undertake offset obligations in India. It is expected that the ToT and offset contracts would provide a great technological and economic boost to the indigenous defence industries, which would include DPSUs, RURs and other eligible private sector industries. Foreign vendors would be provided great flexibility in effecting tie-up with Indian partners, for this purpose.

There are three guiding principles for this procurement scheme. First, the operational requirements of IAF should be fully met. Second, the selection process should be competitive, fair and transparent, so that best value for money is realized. Lastly, Indian defence industries should get an opportunity to grow to global scales."

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