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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is making significant strides in its pursuit of the Medium Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) tender, marking a pivotal moment in the country’s quest for self-sufficiency in defense manufacturing.

Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, the current Chief of the Air Staff, recently confirmed that the IAF has received responses to its Request for Information (RFI) for the MRFA tender, which seeks to acquire 114 advanced fighter jets. This development underscores the IAF’s commitment to modernizing its aerial fleet and bolstering its defense capabilities.

Intriguingly, the IAF has engaged in discussions with eight Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) who have submitted proposals for their fighter jets to be considered for the tender. The IAF’s meticulous pre-screening process involves evaluating the offers, including the Transfer of Technology (ToT) levels on offer, as the objective is to manufacture these aircraft locally in India. To this end, the IAF has also sought detailed information about potential local partners and the levels of partnership they are willing to commit to, including plans for joint production facilities in India.

One notable aspect of the MRFA tender process is the IAF’s intention to minimize the need for extensive technical trials, especially for aircraft that were previously offered for testing in the now-canceled Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender, which sought 126 fighter jets. This streamlined approach aims to expedite the selection process and bring advanced fighter capabilities to the IAF more swiftly.

It’s worth noting that the MRFA tender represents a significant milestone in the IAF’s long-term strategy. The IAF has made it clear that the winner of this tender will be the last foreign fighter jet to be inducted, as the force is committed to developing indigenous aircraft, including the Tejas Mk2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). These homegrown platforms are set to form the majority of the IAF’s fighter fleet composition, reaching over 70 percent by 2050.

In the coming months, the IAF is poised to progress further in the MRFA tender process. Plans include seeking Approval of Necessity (AoN) later this year before issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the eight OEMs that have responded to the RFI. Subsequently, the evaluation will move to the scrutiny stages, followed by technical trials of untested fighter jets. Based on stringent technical requirements and alignment with IAF’s needs, two fighter jets will be selected as the frontrunners for this transformative procurement.

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