The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) seems to be keen on approaching foreign governments rather than individual companies to partner it for manufacturing fighter jets under the ‘Make-in-India’ program.
The MoD, earlier this month sent invitations through Indian Embassies to ‘some overseas participants’ to partake in India’s fresh program to acquire single-engine fighter aircraft to be built in India on the basis of foreign technology transfer and also for export from India, an Indian business newspaper reported last week.
Unlike earlier fighter jet procurement programs such as the MMRCA, India has not contacted the companies capable of delivering the fighters but has contacted the aircraft producer-countries through its embassies. The invitations have been sent even before floating an RFI (Request for Information) which is the standard route to seek what is available and then send out a request for proposals (RFPs) to shortlisted parties. According to the report, the invitations have been sent to Russia, Sweden and the US.
Several foreign fighter jet manufacturers appear to have gone into overdrive expecting to pitch for the lucrative Indian contract for about 130 odd fighter jets which also has an export component to it. The Indian Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had mentioned of receiving “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 during the course of a press conference in New Delhi in the first week of October.
“This is very much on the table (a post-Rafale procurement of fighters) 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.”
Both US- based Lockheed Martin and Swedish Saab have offered to set up manufacturing facilities with full transfer of technology to Indian entities involved with them in the manufacture. If indeed the single-engine jet request from the Indian MoD is true, the will be left with only these two companies to contest ruling out Boeing, Dassault and Russian MiG and Sukhoi as they do not manufacture single engine fighter aircraft.
A source familiar with the development told defenseworld.net that it makes sense to make deals directly with a foreign country rather than individual company as it means sovereign guarantee of technology transfer, pricing, joint export and other tricky issues which could sour if the foreign power and India are less friendly than at the time of signing the company-to-company or company-to-India contract.
Besides the fighter jet program, India recently signed government-to- government deals with Russia for setting up a joint production facility for Kamov helicopters, purchase of at least five systems of S-400 air defense missile system and, four Admiral Grigorovich-class guided-missile stealth frigates of which two will be manufactured in India with Russian collaboration.
The agreement was signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin at BRICS Summit 2016 last week.