The French Dassault which clinched the biggest export deal with India for its Rafale fighter jet, is not in the running for now to manufacture the same fighters under the ‘Make In India’ Program.
The IAF has received “unsolicited offers” from Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Saab for building their fighters in India - the F-16 Block 70, F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Gripen E respectively, the Chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said during the course of a press conference in New Delhi yesterday.
“This is very much on the table and I’m sure whoever gives the best deal [will win]. All the aircraft are very capable, so it will depend upon who provides the best transfer of technology; and, of course, the price tag. It’s on the table; nothing is decided as yet.”
Raha added: “This will not be just licensed manufacture. It will be proper transfer of technology with India becoming a hub for manufacturing, as well as maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) for other air forces in the region.”
Under Indian Prime Minister Narandra Modi’s initiative, India scrapped a previous tender to procure 136 Rafale jets and instead opted for 36 jets off-the-shelf. All the aircraft will be built in France and shipped to India. France and Dassault will offer depot-level maintenance in India to ensure a high operational level.
Under the Make-in-India initiative for which Lockheed Martin, Saab and Boeing have made offers, the aircraft are to be built in India to meet IAF requirement as well cater to export markets. Lockheed Martin and Saab both have offered to set up manufacturing facilities with full transfer of technology to Indian entities involved with them in the manufacture.
Referring to Dassault’s reported interest in building 80 more fighters in India, Raha said “we would like to have more, but the decision will be taken based on capabilities and the desirability of having fighter aircraft of this class.”