New Delhi: India floated its biggest ever global defence tender on 28 August for purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft, in a deal which would run upto a staggering Rs42,000 crore ($10 billion).
An official announcement here said the Request For Proposals (RFP) for the fighters had been issued to six main bidders, ending a eight-year suspense over the acquisition. The strength of IAF fighters during this year had plunged to an all time low of 32 squadrons (576 aircraft)
Under the proposal, 18 fighters would be bought off the shelf and 108 manufactured under technology transfer in India. The RFP also stiuplates an option of India purchasing another 64 fighters under the same terms and conditions.
The Defence Ministry expects the first batch of 18, which would be supplied in a flyaway condition to be inducted in IAF by 2012.
The chosen manufacturer would have to spend 50% as direct offsets on the aircraft or defence manufacturing industry in India, the announcement said.
“As the tender is huge, 50% direct offsets have been mandated, preferably in the aircraft project itself”, top defence ministry sources said. Former Defence Secretary Shekar Dutt had gone on record as saying the offsets could flow to other defence projects, if the country needed them.
The six bidders as listed by the Defence Ministry are American giants Lockheed Martin in contention with their F-16 Fighting Falcons, Boeing with twin engined F-18/A Super Hornets,French Dassault with Rafale fighters, Swedish SAAB’s Gripen JAS-3, Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian Aircraft Corporation’s just unveiled Mig-35.
Asserting that the selection process would be “transparent and fair”, the Defence Ministry said the new fighters were expected to have a lifeline of over 40 years or an actual flying time of 6,000 hours, whichever is earlier.
For the first time under the new fighter RFP, the Government has incorporated the Life cycle cost calculation. The tender also stiuplates guranteed servicebility and adequate supply of spares throughout the lifetime of the aircraft.
The costs of the aircraft would include direct acquisition including that of weapons and missiles, warranty for first two years, licence royalty for manufacture in India, cost of technology transfer and costs of initial training.