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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is determined to reduce its reliance on foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for the supply of weapons systems. In a significant move, the IAF has decided to seek indigenously developed air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons for the fighter jets selected under the Medium Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) tender.

The MRFA tender aims to procure 114 fighter jets that will be locally manufactured in India. Six OEMs have responded to the request for information (RFI) issued in April 2019, and they have been informed about the IAF’s decision to prioritize indigenous weapons for these jets.

While the IAF hasn’t ruled out the possibility of incorporating some foreign weapons, it has made it clear that it wants the aircraft to be primarily equipped with locally manufactured or Indian-designed weapons. This decision is driven by a desire to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers and strengthen the Indian defence industry.

The integration of indigenous weapons into the MRFA program poses a challenge for foreign OEMs. Weapons packages often account for 30-40% of the overall acquisition costs, and foreign OEMs may be reluctant to sell the aircraft without their preferred weapons systems.

Additionally, the IAF’s insistence on obtaining the source code for the main radar and mission computer could further complicate the integration process. This information is typically considered proprietary by aircraft manufacturers, and they may be hesitant to share it with the Indian side.
Despite these challenges, the IAF’s decision to prioritize indigenous weapons is a bold step towards self-reliance in the defence sector. It signals the IAF’s commitment to supporting the growth of the Indian defence industry and reducing its vulnerability to supply chain disruptions.

The success of the MRFA program will depend on the ability of the IAF and the Indian defence industry to work together to integrate indigenous weapons into foreign-designed fighter jets. If this collaboration proves successful, it could pave the way for India to become a major exporter of defence equipment in the future.

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