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India begins process to procure fleet of fighter jets for IAF

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NEW DELHI (PTI): India has kick started the process to acquire a fleet of around 110 fighter jets which could be one of the world's biggest military procurement in recent years.

The Indian Air Force on April 6 issued the RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender for the billion dollar procurement deal which will be in sync with the Government's Make in India initiative.

Officials said the jets will be produced jointly by a foreign aircraft maker along with an Indian company under the recently-launched strategic partnership model which aims to bring in high-end defence technology to India.

Leading military aircraft producers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Saab and Dassault are among the competitors which are likely to vie for the mega deal.

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.

It is the first mega procurement initiative for fighter jets after the Government scrapped the process to acquire 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force around five years ago.

Instead, the NDA government, in September 2016, signed an Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal with the French government for purchase of 36 Rafale twin-engine fighter jets.

The IAF was keen on a follow-on order of 36 additional Rafales. However, the government is yet to take a decision on it.

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