In the report, Indias Quest for Fighter Jets: Make in India vs Make America Great Again, it said Chinas bellicose incursions in the Indo-Pacific region are challenging United States geostrategic supremacy in the region.
The Modi government has stipulated that at least 85 per cent of the aircraft must be manufactured in India. The RFI, which lists single as well as twin engine aircraft requirement thus opens the doors for a larger global competition, which would, in turn, translate into a modern, multirole fighter. The remaining 93-94 aircraft must be built in India by a "strategic partner/Indian production agency (SP/IPA)".
The total cost of the procurement could be between $15 billion to $20 billion dollars. The aircraft should be capable of operating during daytime and nighttime and take on multi-combat roles such as reconnaissance, maritime and air defence, according to the RFI.
This will be the first major deal for the fighters after the government canceled the purchase process of 126 Medium Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Air Force five years ago.
India seems to have relented on the clause of "Make in India" for the Rafale deal. But the strength is down to about 31 operational squadrons.
"The two aircraft have been positioned complementarily, and the purchase of the pair is an interesting proposition for policymakers from both countries", US-based think-tank Atlantic Council said in a report released in New Delhi yesterday. USA aerospace major Lockheed Martin has joined hands with India's Tata Advanced Systems to build the planes in India. The IAF was keen on a follow-on order of 36 additional Rafales. But in September 2016, the government inked a Rs 59,000 crore deal to buy 36 French Rafale twin-engine fighters.
The IAF has been pressing for expediting the process to acquire the aircraft citing declining strength of its fighter squadron as some of the ageing jets are being phased out.