Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The mega tender for the fighter aircraft entered a crucial phase with all the six contenders having submitted their bids. The U.S.-based Lockheed Martin and the Swedish Grippen submitted the request for proposal (RFP) on Monday. The Russian MiG, France-based Rafael, another U.S. company Boeing and a European consortium had submitted their responses earlier.

As expected, Lockheed and Grippen claim to have developed an India-exclusive fighter, asserting that their respective aircraft would be the best in business. The tender, estimated at over $10 billion is for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, and will help offset the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) depleting force levels.

While the MiG-21 variants are being retired at a rapid pace, the indigenously developed light combat aircraft is nowhere near the induction stage. As a result, the IAF had to place orders for 40 additional Sukhoi-30 MKI though they belong to the heavier class of fighters.

It also plans to utilise the British jet trainers in case of dire need. India is believed to be scouting for surplus French-origin Mirage fighters with other countries in case the price is right.

“This proposal also represents a long-term partnership between the Air Force of India and the United States and between Indian industry and the F-16 industry team,” said company official Orville Prins. The company sought to front-end requisites that would be of prime concern to the selectors in the Ministry of Defence — the ability to set up production lines outside their main production centre in the U.S., providing technology transfer to its clients, fulfilling offset obligations in the past and gaining repeat orders from apparently satisfied clients. It did not mention the fact that one of the contented clients is Pakistan Air Force.