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The recent clearance by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program has reignited discussions regarding the fate of the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) tender, which seeks to procure 114 jets from various countries. Amidst growing calls to scrap the MRFA tender, stakeholders familiar with the program have indicated that such a move is unlikely despite the push for indigenous aircraft production.

The MRFA tender has attracted proposals from multiple countries, offering a range of fighter jets to meet India’s operational requirements. However, with the decline in squadron levels and the production of AMCA or Tejas MkII still a year away, the Indian Air Force (IAF) faces a critical shortage of combat aircraft. While the IAF advocates for the acquisition of 114 jets manufactured in India under transfer of technology (ToT) agreements, the tender process has yet to progress to the issuance of Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) or Request for Proposal (RFP) stages, suggesting that a conclusion to the program may be distant.

Despite the prolonged procurement process, the government remains open to exploring alternative solutions, particularly through government-to-government (G2G) deals. One potential avenue is the purchase of jets from a preferred vendor, such as Dassault Rafale, under a G2G agreement. This approach could expedite the acquisition process and address the urgent need to augment India’s fighter fleet.

While the AMCA program represents India’s aspirations for self-reliance and technological advancement in defence, the need for immediate reinforcement of the Air Force cannot be overlooked.

However, the decision to pursue a G2G deal can only be weighed against considerations of cost-effectiveness, technological compatibility, and strategic alignment with India’s defence objectives. Additionally, the selection of a preferred vendor must be guided by comprehensive assessments of capability, reliability, and long-term support commitments.

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