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The race for India’s massive Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) tender heats up as Boeing retains its offer for both the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-15EX Eagle II. This comes after the U.S. government granted Boeing a license to offer the F-15EX to India in 2021, leading to speculation that the Super Hornet might be dropped from contention.

However, Boeing has confirmed that both jets will remain on the table, giving the Indian Air Force (IAF) more options to choose from. This move also intensifies competition within the American defence industry, with Lockheed Martin also vying for the contract with its F-21 fighter, which it proposes to build in India.

Boeing’s dual offering presents the IAF with a chance to evaluate two advanced American fighter jets. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a twin-engine, carrier-based multirole fighter with a proven record of combat performance. The F-15EX Eagle II, on the other hand, is a more modern variant of the classic F-15 fighter, designed for long-range missions and high payload capacity.

Lockheed Martin’s F-21 further intensifies the competition. This single-engine fighter is a derivative of the F-16 but with advanced avionics and improved capabilities specifically designed for Indian requirements. The F-21’s biggest advantage might be Lockheed Martin’s offer to manufacture the aircraft in India, aligning with the country’s “Make in India” initiative.

Beyond the American contenders, several other manufacturers are in the race for the MRFA program. These include:

  • Mikoyan MiG-35 (Russia)
  • Saab JAS-39 Gripen E/F (Sweden)
  • Sukhoi Su-35 (Russia)
  • Dassault Rafale (France)
  • Eurofighter Typhoon (European Consortium)

With a total estimated value of over $18 billion, the MRFA contract is one of the world’s biggest military procurement programs in recent years. The Indian government is expected to prioritize factors like technical capabilities, transfer of technology, and life-cycle costs when making its final decision.

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