India has again kick-started a race to supply fighter jets for its air force (IAF) in what again is thought to be among the world’s most lucrative military aerospace contracts, with international defence companies lining up to pitch for as much as $10 billion worth of business.
Companies worldwide have received letters in the past few days from the Indian government asking whether they would be willing to partner with an Indian company to produce a fleet of single-engine fighter jets for the IAF.
A letter was sent via Indian embassies to both Lockheed Martin and Saab, while anonymous industry executives say letters were also received by Germany, Italy and Russia. It is unclear, however, whether the latter three were handed the same request, given none of those three countries makes modern combat aircraft of the required single-engine type.
The move indicates that in its haste to replace its ageing fleet of jets, India is willing to overturn its normal tendering process and process a procurement more quickly…which in turn could be 23 years instead of the normal 57.
Buying a foreign-designed fighters also undercuts India’s announced plans to produce and operate large numbers of TEJAS LCAs, originally intended as a MiG replacement.