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India’s pursuit of acquiring 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) has encountered significant hurdles, prompting the Standing Committee on Defence for the year 2022-23 to suggest contingency plans in case of further delays. With the procurement process at an advanced stage, concerns about potential setbacks akin to past projects, such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) or Kaveri engine, has advised the government to consider alternative options. The possibility of acquiring state-of-the-art fifth-generation fighter aircraft over the counter has emerged as a potential solution to maintain the nation’s defense capabilities without prolonged delays.

The prolonged delays in the issuance of the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the MRFA tender have raised concerns within the defense establishment. The Standing Committee on Defence has wisely advocated for a proactive approach, suggesting that if the current procurement process faces further setbacks, the government should explore alternative avenues to ensure the Indian Air Force (IAF) remains well-equipped and ready to address emerging security challenges.

While the United States, a key player in fifth-generation fighter technology with its F-35, has not offered this advanced jet to India, other nations have presented intriguing possibilities. Russia, in particular, has proposed joint manufacturing of the Su-57E, an export variant of its fifth-generation fighter, for India, UAE, and Russia. Additionally, Russia has showcased its Su-75 Checkmate, a single-engine fifth-generation fighter unveiled in 2021, as a potential solution for India’s MRFA requirements.

Russia’s proposal for joint manufacturing of the Su-57E presents a unique opportunity for collaboration between India, UAE, and Russia. This not only addresses India’s MRFA needs but also opens avenues for strategic partnerships in the defense sector. The Su-57E’s advanced capabilities, including stealth features and state-of-the-art avionics, align with India’s aspirations for a technologically advanced air force.

Russia’s Su-75 Checkmate, positioned as a fifth-generation single-engine fighter, adds another layer to the options available for India. Unveiled as a cost-effective yet highly capable platform, the Su-75 could potentially meet India’s requirements for a modern, agile, and advanced fighter jet.

As India grapples with the prolonged delays in the MRFA procurement process, the Standing Committee on Defence’s suggestion to consider fifth-generation fighter aircraft options demonstrates a pragmatic and forward-thinking approach. The potential collaboration with Russia for the Su-57E or exploring the capabilities of the Su-75 Checkmate could provide viable alternatives to maintain the IAF’s operational readiness.

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