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The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) long-awaited plan to procure six Flight Refueling Aircraft (FRA) is finally gaining momentum. In the coming weeks, the IAF is set to invite global bids for these vital aerial assets, marking a significant step towards enhancing its long-range operational capabilities.

The IAF is seeking bids for both Boeing and Airbus platforms, opening up the competition to a wider range of contenders. The IAF to seek pre-owned Boeing and Airbus commercial aircraft, specifically the 737-700 and 800 models from Boeing and the A321 platform from Airbus. These aircraft will undergo conversion into military-grade FRAs, equipped with specialized systems and equipment for mid-air refueling of fighter jets.

HAL, India’s state-owned aerospace company, has already partnered with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the conversion process. HAL will leverage IAI’s expertise in transforming commercial aircraft into operational FRAs. Additionally, Boeing, in collaboration with GMR Aero Technic, plans to establish a Boeing Converted Freighter (BCF) line in Hyderabad, India. This facility could potentially be utilized for the 737 platform conversions. Airbus likely will offer its Used A330 platform to bring down the cost as A330MRTT was selected by IAF twice in Previous bids but contract was not concluded due to high cost of aircrafts.

Acquiring modern FRAs is crucial for the IAF to maintain its operational edge in a complex and dynamic regional environment. These aircraft will enable fighter jets to stay airborne for extended durations, enhancing their combat reach and flexibility, particularly in long-range missions and patrolling vast maritime borders.

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