Indian air force is planning to hold 'limited trials' of the US fighter jet F-16 and Swedish Gripen as part of its selection process to identify a foreign partner to build 120 combat planes in India under a $20 billion deal.
Both the fighter jets have undergone extensive trials seven years ago while Indian air force was evaluating them to buy 126 medium multirole combat aircraft (M-MRCA), India Today reported Monday.
"The trials will cover only those capabilities which were found to be lacking in these aircraft in those days," (the M-MRCA selection which was eventually won by Dassault Rafale) an unnamed IAF officer was quoted as saying.
If the report is correct, it means curtains for the efforts of the French Dassault which is hoping to partner with Indian firms to make the 120 planes in India as a follow-up to its order for 36 Rafale jets.
The F-16 had not been selected then as it was found that there was no potential for developing the aircraft further. The Saab Gripen did not have an advanced radar called AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array), which was mandatory requirement in that project, the official further elaborated to the publication.
The fighter jets are said to be compliant to the current requirements as the the F-16 manufacturer, Lockheed Martin has has come up with the latest version of F-16 known as F-16V (Block 70) while the Gripen has been fitted with an AESA radar.
"To test the new capabilities, there would be a limited trial only and we are hoping to select and finalise the foreign partner within the next one year," the unnamed official was further quoted.
The 120 single-engine fighter jets would replace the IAF fleet of the Russian MiG-series. Almost all the variants of the MiG-21s and MiG-27s would retire by the year 2025.