Saab and Rosoboronexport are among international manufacturers who have been invited to make presentations to the Indian MoD on the purchase of a light fighter to replace the MiG-21 aircraft.
The initial pitches will be in the nature of request for information to see what is available in the international market.
The single-engine fighter will figure below the Dassault Rafale and completely replace the MiG-21s which form the bulk of the Indian Air Force’s fighter fleet. Industry sources told defenseworld.net that the process of making presentations has started and a couple of manufacturers have already completed their initial pitch.
Other contenders may include the F/A-18 of Boeing, the F-16 of Lockheed Martin and the proposed combat version of the BAE Systems Hawk trainer jet. Incidentally, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and BAE Systems had signed a memorandum of understanding just last week to develop a combat version of the Hawk.
Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar had hinted in April that India may purchase a second fighter after the Dassault Rafale as a make-in-India project. "Rafale is not a replacement for MiG-21. The LCA is a replacement for MiG-21. Or, if we build some other fighter under 'Make in India', that is also possible. If we build another single engine (fighter plane) in India, which is possible, that could be a replacement for the MiG-21", Parrikar had said during the course of an interview with the government owned Doordrshan TV channel.
The sources said that Rosoboronexport had pitched in with the combat version of its Yak-130. The Yak-130 is a new generation aircraft which can be used as a trainer as well as a light and highly manoeuvrable combat aircraft carrying a variety of weapons.
Saab has been promoting the Gripen even after it lost out in India’s MMRCA race. It has offered to manufacture the aircraft in India with complete transfer of technology. In April, Maharashtra's chief minister Devendra Fadnavis visited Saab's facility in Sweden. A photo doing the rounds of Twitter shows Fadnavis in the cockpit of a Gripen. The accompanying tweet said, "it was great to be at the aerospace and defence company SAAB at Linkoping, Sweden. Promised a defence manufacturing policy in Maharashtra soon."
Recently, a number of Indian companies have applied for a licence to manufacture aircraft and helicopters in India. These could be in the race to partner whichever foreign company gets the light fighter contract.