The Indian MoD has scrapped a potential US#18 billion plan to procure 114 engine fighter jet on a ‘make-in-India’ basis and instead asked the air force to initiate a new plan that includes twin-engine aircraft as well.
The Times of India reported today quoting unnamed sources, “The original plan placed an unnecessary restriction on only single-engine fighters, which limited the competition to just two jets (American F-16 and Swedish Gripen-E). The aim is to increase the contenders and avoid needless allegations later.”
If twin-engine aircraft are introduced into the competition, then it will open the fiend to Dassault of France, MiG of Russia, Eurofighter and Boeing.
The make-in-India fighter jet plan was mooted by the Modi government soon after it came to power in 2014 so that advanced technology is brought into the country and manufacturing base used to export the aircraft and components to other countries.
Lockheed Martin and Saab had shown great interest in the project for which a request for proposals had not yet been issued. While the former had tied up with the Tata group, the latter entered into an agreement with the Adani group as Indian partners for their make-in-India venture.
Opening the field to additional manufacturers would increase the time taken to evaluate respective bids for a project which is already three years in the making.
The idea behind a single engine fighter jet was a relatively low-maintenance and low cost-of-acquisition aircraft that could quickly fill the numbers required to replace its Russian origin MiG-21 jets. However, if twin engine planes enter the race, it will add a whole new complexity to the procurement process.