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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is hopeful for a breakthrough in the long-delayed Medium Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MMRCA) program, also known as MRFA. The proposal, seeking 114 fighter jets, has been in motion since 2018. IAF officials are pushing for a fast-track approach with the issuance of Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) and financial backing later this year.

However, an IAF source, speaking anonymously to, expressed concern about the government’s delays. The source emphasized the criticality of acquiring new aircraft to address the IAF’s fighter jet shortfall.

Beyond immediate procurement, the MRFA program is also seen as a catalyst for developing a robust private sector ecosystem within India’s defence industry. The envisioned outcome is a private sector-led production line that can lessen India’s reliance on the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for future programs like the AMCA 5th generation fighter jet.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has expressed a preference for a private sector consortium to lead AMCA production, with a majority stake compared to HAL’s minority involvement. However, a significant hurdle exists – a lack of experience among private companies. Many companies are hesitant to take the lead as the main integrator due to the absence of prior experience in such large-scale projects.

This hesitancy creates a catch-22 situation. Private companies are looking to the MRFA program as a platform to gain experience and skilled manpower before potentially joining the AMCA program. However, the AMCA program itself hinges on a strong private sector presence.

The IAF and MoD will need to address these concerns to achieve their goals. Streamlining the MRFA procurement process and potentially offering incentives for private sector participation could be crucial steps. A clear roadmap outlining the path from MRFA to AMCA, with well-defined roles for private companies, could also entice participation.

The success of the MRFA program and the future of the AMCA program are intricately linked as per IAF officials and Finding a solution that addresses both immediate needs and long-term ambitions will be critical for the IAF’s modernization efforts.

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