On the starting blocks – India’s next fighter

More than three years in the making, India’s long-awaited request for proposals for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft is on the streets – almost. The RFP was approved by the government’s defence acquisition council today (22 June) and is expected to be issued within weeks, kicking off the biggest competition yet between US, European and Russian fighter manufacturers.

Contenders are the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16, RSK MiG-35 and Saab Gripen. Who will win is anybody’s guess, but I thinkI will hold off making a prediction – for now. How well the US fighters perform will depend on how much technology the US is willing to release. How well the European fighters perform will depend on how little technology the US is willing to release. The Europeans will be expensive. The Russians will be cheap. The Americans will be somewhere in between.

Politics will probably be the deciding factor. If India leans towards the US, it will likely come down to a competition between the Super Hornet’s capability and Lockheed’s ability to tailor an F-16 to meet India’s unique requirements.

One thing is certain, the RFP may be on its way, finally. but don’t hold your breath waiting for a decision. This is India, after all.

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