With the issue of second RFI under SP model for the Fighter Aircraft, the Process has inched a bit. The model can build a formidable indigenous defence industry provided MoD streamlining the issues concerned with the process.
The Strategic Partnership policy is laying down the qualification criteria with the financial and technical parameters for selection of OEM and Indian Partner and approved on 31 May 2107. The policy targets to create an ecosystem including the SP itself, which is expected to be the system integrator with other stakeholders including, among others, development partners, specialized vendors, and suppliers, especially from the MSME sector. The “Strategic Partnership Model” was meant for creating capacity in the private sector over and above the capacity and infrastructure that exists in the DPSUs. Now DPSU like HAL are also being considered, and the DRDO which had no role is likely to enter in SP model, hindering “Make in India.
The government identified four segments under Strategic Partnership Model, P75(I) submarine, Naval Multi-Role Helicopters (NMRH), Naval Utility Helicopters, Future Ready Combat Vehicle, and Fighter aircraft. Global RFI for Naval Utility Helicopters (NUH) and Naval Multi-Role Helicopters (NMRH) Proj 75(I) and Fighter Aircraft have been issued, and a number of responses received are analysed for selection of Foreign OEM. The analysis of the response to RFI will be utilized to draw the minimum QR and depth and range of technology transfer. As some of the platforms have already been trial evaluated, to reduce the time for User trials only it is likely that aspects which were not tested or met the standard may be re-evaluated or combat record be analyzed. As per the Strategic Partnership model the IAF to down select the aircraft and the MoD may approve the "strategic partner."
Indian Air Force with a third of India’s 650-strong fleet is more than 40 years old and set to be phased out over the next decade is facing a critical shortage of combat assets and other equipment. The IAF has estimated it needs at least 45 squadrons with a current active strength of about 25.
To maintain the present strength of fighter squadrons, IAF will need a total of about 362 fighter aircraft by 2032. These could include additional procurement of 36 Rafale could be due to the amortization of the customization cost paid in the first tranche; creation of maintenance infrastructure; installation of training aids.
The LCA is another program that is expected to fill this significant void. HAL is delivering 20 LCA MK'1's in the IOC configuration, and 20 more will be offered in the FOC configuration. An order for 83 additional LCA's in the MK-1A version is being negotiated between HAL and the IAF. To further cover the shortfall in fleet strength, the IAF plans to acquire around 110 fighter jets.
Out of the 110 aircraft, about 85 percent of the plane will have to be made in India while 15 percent of them can be in a flyaway condition. The flyaway state from the OEM are expected to commence within 36 months, and the entire delivery will have to be completed within 60 months from contract signing. The IAF is likely to procure 82-83 (75 percent) single-seat fighter jets and 27-28 twin-seat variants (25 percent).
The companies responded to the RFI, includes Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70, Dassault’s Rafale F3R, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen E, the Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35 and Sukhoi Corporation’s Su-35. Some of the features and facts compiled below:-
The Indian Air Force (IAF)’s has finalised the Air Staff Quality Requirements (ASQR) and now processing for Acceptance of Necessity (AON) from the MoD. IAF will come out with an Expression of Interest (EOI) and finally the Request for Proposal (RFP). The IAF expects the EOI to be issued by the second quarter of this year and the RFP by the last quarter. Issuing the RFI is just the initial stage of lengthy procurement procedure with chances of being derailing at each step.
Today, if we sign up for a programme with a different OEM on SP Model after selection of partners, the earliest the arrival of the first platform into the Armed Forces will not be before 5 years. Post selection of a contract could potentially be signed within the next 2 to 3 years. Then the production facilities will need to be set up. However, it may well be possible that the first lot of platforms come in a fully finished condition from abroad, while the facilities are being set up here.