Aditya Bhat, International Business Times, January 4 2017.
Move over, LCA Tejas, India is gearing up to produce a second line of single-engine fighter aircraft under a new process called “Strategic Partnership” model.
“The second line of single engine aircraft is also required, for which we are thinking of using the Strategic Partnership soon, once the chapter is finalised. During the current year, the decision, tendering and closure should tentatively be over,” said defence minister Manohar Parrikar, who made the announcement on Tuesday, IANS reported.
The new domestically produced aircraft will be based on a new model called, Strategic Partnership, which will soon be finalised as the discussions on this are in the “final stage.” He also said that the details will be known by the end of January.
He also promised that the team will meet “sometime next week and expect results very soon.”
According to Parrikar, the aircraft would be selected based on the cost and extent of technology transfer.
A competitive bidding process will decide the price and local partners, but the final deal will be with the government (something like what India did with France for buying Rafales).
“Government to government agreement will be a protective umbrella agreement, while the actual dealing will be with the company,” said Parrikar
F-16 vs Gripen
The Indian defence ministry has already detailed that the selection will be based on the US’ Lockheed Martin F-16 and Sweden’s SAAB company, which makes Gripen fighters. It also has detailed an offer from Boeing that makes the twin-engined F/A-18.
Lockheed Martin has said it is offering Block 70 version of the F-16. SAAB has offered its latest Gripen E fighter to India.
No more Rafale fighter jets
Parrikar dismissed reports claiming India was thinking of buying more Rafale twin-engine fighter aircraft. India has already signed a deal for 36 Rafale jets with France in a government-to-government deal. The media speculation was due to a recent statement by the former Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha where he said the Air Force will need more aircraft in that category.
What will happen to LCA Tejas?
Parrikar has clearly stated that LCA Tejas production line won’t be affected, but the government is looking to increase the capacity to produce 16 aircraft a year.
In November 2016, Parrikar had approved the procurement of 83 LCA Tejas Mark 1As for Rs 48,000 crore.