India moved a step closer to inviting bids for the purchase of 114 fighter jet, currently the world’s largest deal in play, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to boost the capability of the country’s armed forces and replace an aging combat aircraft fleet.
The deal — valued at more than $15 billion — has attracted initial offers from global defence majors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Sweden’s Saab. At least 85 per cent of production has to be in India, according to an initial document issued more than a year back.
Modernising the country’s defence forces is critical for Modi, who hardly signed any new major arms deals during his first term, even as twin threats from neighbouring China and Pakistan loomed. A Pakistani F-16 jet downed an aging Soviet-era MiG 21 — Indian Air Force’s mainstay — in a dogfight during a military confrontation earlier this year.
The evaluation of initial bids and finalising the Air Forces’ requirements has begun, junior defence minister Shripad Naik told lawmakers in Parliament. India is also drafting initial documents to purchase tanks and armoured vehicles, as well as asking foreign shipbuilders to show interest to manufacture submarines in India, he said.
Naik’s comments came two days after India sought bids for purchasing warships and support vessels for its Navy and Coast Guard as it ramps up security of its maritime border in the Indian Ocean region. Modi’s administration on Monday asked seven shipyards to submit proposals for the construction of six missile warships and other smaller vessels worth Rs 150 billion ($2.2 billion), the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
The Indian Air Force and Navy require as many as 400 single- and double-engine combat aircraft, according to the government.