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Jets tender: Global players okay with technology transfer to India

In a tender floated on April 6 to get 110 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), India has sought the latest technology, and foreign military aviation manufacturers are keen to do so. The Russians, in the past, allowed licensed production of Sukhoi-30-MKI in India – hence, are considered on board with the technology transfer parameters of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Europeans, Airbus and Rafale have their own “make in India” offerings.

India in its request for information (RFI), considered the first step in the tendering process, has set very stringent criteria. It wants original manufacturer should be willing to transfer design, development, manufacturing and repair expertise within India.

Securing against any whimsical imposition of sanctions, at any stage, the RFI says the foreign manufacturer will have to provide government assurances from their home country for transfer of technology, manufacture, repair, overhaul, upgrade and also for all subsequent authorisations needed to negotiate, sign and execute contracts with the Government of India.

US Major Boeing says it has an in-principle approval of the US government. Pratyush Kumar, president, Boeing India, said: “We already have 400 Indian companies in our supply chain”. Boeing announced its tie-up with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) yesterday to produce the F/A-18 super hornet jets in India.

Another US company, Lockheed Martin, says it can shift its entire manufacturing line to India to make the F-16 block 70 jets. “We will be fully compliant to the Indian tender,” Says Vivek Lall, Vice-President (Strategy and Business Development), Lockheed Martin. The planes will have some common technologies with the F-22 and F-35 like the AESA radar.

Swedish maker, SAAB says it’s plane, the Gripen, is on offer. Mats Palmberg, head Gripen campaign India, says: “We are not looking to build just a few jets in India. We are looking at a partnership that will last 4-5 decades”. The company will bid for 110 jets, but is also willing to partner in the Tejas Mark2 and the advanced medium combat aircraft planned by the DRDO, Palmberg said.
The Indian Air Force is now down to 31 squadrons against the need of 42, as mandated by the Cabinet Committee on Security. Each squadron has 16-18 planes.

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