Indian air force and defence ministry officials are tying up loose ends in a delayed request for proposals (RFP) for 126 new fighters, and are expected to complete the document by the end of this month.

Industry sources say officials are clearing up details relating to a requirement for offsets worth 30% of the programme's estimated $12 billion cost, and that the RFP will also focus on life-cycle costs, in-flight refuelling and long-range capabilities. The multirole combat aircraft competition has been in the works since the start of the decade, but has been delayed several times.

Contenders for the requirement are the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16, RSK MiG-35 and the Saab Gripen. Industry analysts say the US and Russian candidates are considered the favourites to secure the deal, which anticipates deliveries from early next decade.

Incoming air force chief of staff Air Marshal F H Major says the service will not accelerate the retirement of its Mikoyan MiG-21s, despite having lost more than 150 pilots to accidents involving the type. "An aircraft cannot be phased out if there are a couple of accidents," says Major.

Source: Flight International