India’s $8 billion fighter-fest begins

It’s showtime in India — well, almost.

The aerospace industries of the Europe, Russia and the US have been waiting for two years now for the Indian Ministry of Defense to release a request for proposals for a contract worth $8 billion to $10 billion to buy 126 multi-role fighters.

And they’re still waiting. But there is progress. My colleague Graham Warwick reports that India’s Defence Acquisition Council has given the thumbs-up to the ministry to release the RFP, which is now expected to be issued within a few weeks. Okay, in India, this timeframe could mean either “in a few weeks” or “in a few months” or even “in a few years”. But the DAC has approved the RFP, and that has to be a sign of progress, right?

The competitors are the F/A-18E/F, F-16, MiG-35, Rafale and Typhoon. That’s quite a line-up.

Depending on whether India specifies a requirement for active electronically scanned array radar, Lockheed may be wise to offer F-16I Sufa already sold to Israel. It lacks an AESA, but has a radar that can meet most modern military’s requirement for air-to-ground functionality.

The real competition, however, may belong to the French and the Russians. Both seem much more willing to offer India access to the airframe, propulsion and electronics technologies it covets, and both may be viewed as far more reliable strategic partners than the US, which is known to be a fairly skittish ally on the subcontinent.

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