INDIAN NAVY ENTERS GLOBAL MARKET TO BUY FIGHTERS
By Bulbul Singh
05 Jan 10. The Indian Navy is to buy new generation multi-role, carrier-based, next generation fighter aircraft. Request for Information (RFI) has been sent to EADS for their Typhoon, Boeing for their F/A-18 Super Hornet, Sweden’s SAAB for their Grippen HJAS 39, Dassault for their Rafale and Rosoboronexport of Russia for SU-33. The aircraft to be purchased are in addition to the 16 Russian MiG 29K already contracted in 2005.
Interestingly, all these fighter aircraft are already in competition for the $10 billion Indian Air Force (IAF) Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) under which 126 fighter aircraft are being bought. The procurement process of the IAF has already entered the flight trial stage with the program likely to be finalized in 2011-2012.
The new aircraft, which will be in the 25-30 tone class are also in addition to the home-developed naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) which is likely to take another six-to-seven years to complete.
“For the IAF’s $10 billion MMRCA program, the overseas defence companies are already pushing their aircraft hard and even using diplomatic channels to push their aircraft,” sources in the Indian defence ministry said, adding that there will also be hard
selling for the Indian Navy fighters.
The latest procurement is for fighter aircraft which will be
placed on Indian Navy’s third aircraft carrier, likely to be inducted in 2017. The aircraft carrier, of 37,500 tonne class, called the Air Defence Ship (ADS) is being built at the state-owned shipyard Cochin shipyard and is running way behind schedule by nearly seven years.
The Indian Navy has already contracted purchase of 16 Russian
MiG 29K aircraft for the second aircraft carrier, Russian-built Admiral Gorshokov, which is also behind scheduled by nearly three years as the refit program has been hit by stalemate over price rise issues since 2007. The issue has now been settled with the Indian government agreeing to pay nearly $2 billion over and above the contracted price of around $800 million in 2005.
The purchase of the fighter aircraft for the Indian Navy could take another four-to-five years as the Indian Navy has only sent RFI and based on the responses a Qualitative Requiremement will be drawn and then a Request for Proposal (RFP) will be floated, likely by end 2010.
Technical evaluation will take another six months, flight trials another one-to-two years, the entire contract is likely to take at least four-to-five years to be finalized.
With the latest RFI, the Indian Navy will have three purchase
program for fighter aircraft for its carriers which include the contracted 16 Russian MiG 29K, the naval version of the LCA and the latest purchase program. Interestingly, the Indian Navy has also ordered six Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)naval versions.
What prompted the Indian Navy to go overseas to procure fighter aircraft in addition to the MIG 29K and the LCA remains unanswered?