DELHI: It’s not yet official but a behind-the-scene competition has begun among the world’s top aviation firms to convince the NDA government about the superiority of their fighter jets as the Defence Ministry explores the possibility of having a combat aircraft assembly line in India.
Last week, the government wrote to some of the aviation majors seeking their opinion about relocating their assembly lines to India, sources told Deccan Herald. The exact nature of the communication, however, remains unknown.
An indication came from Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha about a week ago when he said that the government and the IAF were talking about having a fighter aircraft production line in India with technology transfer.
“The offers are on the table. We will have to see who gives us the best deal,” Raha stated in his annual media interaction ahead of the Air Force Day.
In August, Lockheed Martin proposed to shift its F-16 production line to India in partnership with a local company. Its competitor Boeing, too, offered moving its F/A-18 Super Hornet production line whereas Swedish firm Saab proposed to bring its Gripen-E for production in India.
A fighter jet assembly line on the Indian soil is being thought of because of the IAF’s depleting squadron strength as most of MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft would be phased out within a few years.
Though the government has inked an agreement with French major Dassault Aviation to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, the squadron numbers are far too low for the comfort of the IAF.