The defence ministry has offered to buy at least 200 fighter jets from foreign companies, but only if they are manufactured in India with a local partner, Reuters reported on Saturday. The Union Defence Ministry has written to several companies asking if they are willing to set up a manufacturing assembly line in India, according to the report. It has also sought information on the amount of technology transfer that would take place in such a process.
Experts have said the potential deal, which could be as many as 300 aircraft, could be worth between $13 billion (approximately Rs 86,845 crore) to $15 billion (approximately Rs 1 lakh crore), making it one of the biggest military aircraft deals in the country’s history. The number of aircraft ordered will also depend on how quickly the Indian Air Force phases out its current Soviet-made fighter jets, the report said.
Aviation companies responded positively to the potential offer, Reuters said. Swedish aerospace and defence company Saab said it was ready to manufacture its Gripen fighter jets in India as well as help in developing an aviation industry base. Saab India Technologies Chairman and Managing Director Jan Winderstrom said, “Our way of working involves extensive cooperation with our partners to establish a complete ecosystem, not just an assembly line.” He confirmed that the company had received the Indian government’s letter.
Similarly, aerospace and defence company from the United States, Lockheed Martin, said it was ready to transfer the entire production of its F-16 fighter jets to India. National Executive for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Business Development in India Abhay Paranjape said the assembly of the aircraft in India would make the country “home to the world’s only F-16 production facility”. He added that it would “offer Indian industry the opportunity to become an integral part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft supply chain”.
News of the potential deal and the Indian government’s correspondence with aviation companies comes after the country signed a deal worth €7.87 billion (Rs 59,300 crore approximately) for 36 Rafale fighter jets with France on September 23.