India’s Ministry of Defence has reportedly instructed the Indian Air Force to include twin-engine fighters in its two-year old programme to select a new medium fighter design (with the light fighter being the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and the heavy fighter being the Sukhoi Su-30MKI) from the United States, Europe or Russia. Following evaluation, a decision on the new procurement is anticipated in 2023–2024.
New procurement will be for 114 fighters, 18 of which would be built by the original manufacturer and the remainder under license in India. Eventually, as many as 200 may be acquired.
The instruction to consider twinengine as well as single-engine fighters broadens the scope of eligible responders to an anticipated request for information from the Indian Air Force. It came about because the previously announced intention to build a foreign-designed singleengine fighter under licence in Indian effectively limited the field to Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen, because the F-16 cannot be air refuelled by a probe and drogue system, as used by the Indian Air Force.
At around the same time, Indian Air Force officials denied reports that the military had requested a classified briefing on the F-35 Lightning II. Speaking to The Indian Express, Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said: “New Delhi had not officially asked for a briefing on the F-35 nor has any request been made to the Americans.”
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