SOURCE: RAJESH AHUJA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
The Indian Air Force (IAF) Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) program has been gone in the circle for the last few years but the 114 MRFA project is currently at the RFI evaluation stage. While the entire process will be executed under the provisions of the DAP 2020, the RFP stage doesn’t seem to be coming any time soon but IAF seems to be adamant that the requirement of 114 fighters cant be compromised, and even with four fighter jets projects that are under development in the country, need for a foreign fighter jet to fill in the fleet.
Rumors have been coming thick and fast in media reports that the MRFA might be divided into two contracts that will involve the procurement of 54 foreign jets under the Buy Global (Manufacture in India) category of the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP), with the contract being awarded to a foreign OEM and second part of the contract involves procurement of 60 jets from the Indian production partner selected by the OEM for Part-I.
Other reports indicated that GOI will procure 50-60 jets in one go from the OEM and the remaining jets might see GOI pushing for additional locally made jets that seem to have rattled IAF that now it wants to fast track the RFP stage even though it has failed to define its requirement and has struggled to finalize its operating model and whopping funds of $20 billion that might be required to procure them.
Manohar Parrikar, a technocrat Defence Minister was able to understand what’s bogging down the MRFA issue but he was not in the seat for long enough to come up with a permanent solution but he single-handily was able to get IAF onboard to place orders for 83 Tejas Mk1A jets and also to place emergency orders for 36 Rafale fighter jets.
Present Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh seems to have failed to provide clear cut alternative and since he has spoken so little on the MRFA tender in general it seems unlike Parrikar has not been able to gauge the magnitude of the issue or simply wants the show to go on till PMO finally acts or he is waiting for further orders from the higher-ups.
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