New Delhi, Feb 23: Amid the political conflict between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress over 36 French-manufactured Rafale fighter jets, the government has decided to scrap its two-year-old plan to manufacture 144 single-engine fighters under the ‘Make in India’ programme. The cost to produce single-engine fighters was estimated to be Rs 1.15 lakh crore.
Sources close to the defence ministry said that the ministry had directed Indian Air Force (IAF) to make a proposal to take both single and twin-engine fighters into account, according to a Times of India report.
“The original plan placed an unnecessary restriction on only single-engine fighters, which limited the competition to just two jets (American F-16 and Swedish Gripen-E). The aim is to increase the contenders and avoid needless allegations later,” a source was quoted as saying by TOI.
The report also says that as a part of Ministry of Defence’s ‘strategic partnership’ policy, while Lockheed Martin had tied up with Tata Advanced Systems, Swedish aviation company SAAB joining hands with Adani Group to produce the fighters in India.
In 2015, the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had advised that the IAF to go in for the single-engine production line as, at that time, India could only afford 36 of the twin-engine Rafales for “critical operational necessity”.
The 36 Rafales will now be delivered in 2019-2022. The 36 fighter jets have been ordered by the NDA government after the government scrapped the MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project for 126 jets ordered by the previous UPA government.