Dash to find local partners as MiG-21 replacement nears

India is preparing to release by year-end its highly anticipated tender for 126 new fighters to replace its fleet of MiG-21s.

Industry sources say Boeing, Dassault, Lockheed Martin, MiG and Saab have begun preparing bids and forging partnerships with local companies ahead of the release of a request for proposals (RFP). Information on potential new fighters was supplied early this year and the Indian government, which initially promised to launch quickly a formal competition, is now expected to release the RFP in November or December. Bids will be due in the second quarter of 2006.

The RFP will be issued only to manufacturers and governments that provided preliminary information deemed satisfactory. So far the Dassault Mirage 2000-5 MkII, MiG-29, Saab Gripen, Lockheed F-16 and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet have been included in the evaluation (Flight International, 14-20 February).

Sources expect New Delhi to stick with its requirement that 108 of the 126 aircraft be produced locally by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). Most of the manufacturers have surveyed HAL’s facilities in Bangalore to assess their capability and have promised the local production requirement can be met.

Boeing and Lockheed are quickly expanding their presence in New Delhi to help support their fighter bids, which will submitted by the US government.

Dassault, Saab and MiG are planning to submit commercial bids. India has not yet approved a budget for the acquisition, which could be reduced to fewer aircraft if a more expensive US or French fighter is selected.


Source: Flight International