Cutting down competition as of now to just two fighters – F-16 by Lockheed Martin and Gripen by Saab – Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday said India will select one more single engine aircraft other than Tejas for indigenous manufacture under ‘Make in India’ route.
His making it clear that the aircraft would be single engine means that double engine aircraft like F/A 18 by Boeing and Rafale by Dassault Aviation, both preparing for India’s next round of multi-billion deal for fighters, are out of the race. Just-retired IAF chief Arup Raha had said India required about 200 medium weight category aircraft besides the 36 Rafale fighters. Parrikar also made it clear that navy will continue supporting the development of naval version of Tejas but the current one will be just a technology demonstrator. He said that the navy is seeking a double engine aircraft.
He said when India decides to go for a twin-engine fighter to be made here, the government will also consider the Rafale. But as of now there are no plans to procure any additional aircraft, he added.
Talking about the next fighter competition of India, Parrikar said the need for a second production line for single engine aircraft is felt besides the one for Tejas. “The second line of single engine requirement is also felt for which we are thinking of using the strategic partnership route,” he said.
The Defence Minister said once the chapter on strategic partnership is finalised this month, his ministry will start moving in the direction of single engine fighter aircraft.
He said by the end of this year, decisions on the next aircraft should be tentatively finished. Parrikar said few of the initial aircraft may come off the shelf by the “rest would be made in India increasing the Indian capability in aviation”. He said the process for the next fighter aircraft will include both selection through normal process and government- to-government contract.
“Selection of the local partner would be through a transparent and well defined process,” he said, adding that capabilities and financial strength would also be looked into. “Once you select the local partner, the OEM obviously will be selected through a process of the way we do it. It means who gives the best offer, Transfer of Technology and many other things and price. There will be weightage to both to both,” he said. Parrikar added that once the company is selected, there will be a government-to-government contract to ensure that the other government stands guarantee to the promises made by the firm in terms of technology transfer and other issues.