India looks to buy 114 single-engine fighter jets
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has started looking to buy 114 new single-engine fighter jets to increase its firepower even as it struggles with a depleting fleet. A formal Request for Information would be issued to global manufacturers over the next two-three weeks to kickstart the acquisition process. Swedish company Saab has offered its Gripen warplane while America's Lockheed Martin is pitching the F-16.
The IAF currently has 35 active fighter squadrons as opposed to a sanctioned strength of 42. Each squadron has between 18 to 20 aircraft. However, as per a recent Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Defence, the IAF's actual strength may be down to 25 squadrons.
"Of the 114 fighter jets, 16 will be flown from the country of origin, and the rest will be manufactured in Indian production lines set up here," an IAF officer told DNA. The fighters will be manufactured in India under the Modi government's Strategic Partnership programme. The programme envisages joint production and transfer-of-technology between foreign and Indian manufacturers to boost India's local defense industry.
Saab is collaborating with the Adani group to manufacture the Gripen in India. Likewise, Lockheed has struck a partnership with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. The RFI is for 114 single-engined aircraft but to close the fleet gap, the IAF requires at least 200 such jets.
IAF chief BS Dhanoa recently said the complete 42 squadron strength might be reached only by 2032. Dhanoa said the 42 squadrons are needed to counter a two-front war with Pakistan and China. The IAF will be inducting 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and 36 Dassault Rafale jets by 2020 to push up fleet strength.