The Indian government has issued a request for information (RFI) to overseas defense companies for what would be the country’s largest one-time purchase of defense equipment — 126 multirole combat aircraft for the Air Force, worth more than $9 billion.
The RFI seeks technical and maintenance support data for the aircraft the companies have offered.
A Defence Ministry official said Dec. 28 that the RFI has been issued to Russian Aircraftbuilding Corporation MiG, Moscow, for information on its MiG-29SMT; Saab, Linköping, Sweden, for the JAS 39C; and Dassault Aviation, Saint Cloud, France, for the Mirage 2000-9.
A tender is expected to be issued in the next four months. A technical evaluation will take another six to eight months. Financial bids and price negotiations will follow.
More than one contract could be issued, as the service is eyeing a mix of aircraft. Contracts would not be signed before early 2007.
Other MoD sources said the RFI has not been issued to Lockheed Martin for the F-16 aircraft. The ministry official would not comment on this, but noted an RFI can be sent to more defense companies in the future.
The Air Force also has received a detailed presentation on the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft.
An executive at Lockheed Martin’s office here said no RFI has been issued to the Bethesda, Md.-based company. A U.S. diplomat here, meanwhile, noted Lockheed Martin already has offered its F-16 fighter aircraft and is awaiting response from the Indian government.
The Indian Air Force wants to replace its aging MiG-21 combat aircraft with a mix of aircraft from overseas companies, as the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft is behind schedule by at least a decade and will not be ready until 2007-08.
Dassault’s upgraded Mirage 2000-9 aircraft is the front-runner, an Air Force official said.
The Air Force also wants the transfer of key production technology of the aircraft it procures. The service is looking for aircraft with modern radar and beyond-visual-range weapons, among other things.
Sources in the MoD’s Defense Procurement Board said they will favor a global competition and tender instead of the single-vendor system followed by the government in the past, so that the selection will be fair and offer best value for the money.
Bhim Singh, a retired Air Force wing commander and defense analyst, said the Air Force should buy a mix of all the aircraft to get the maximum technology transfer.