The defence ministry plans to within weeks issue a request for information (RFI), the first stage of a procurement process Photograph:( WION )
The defence ministry declined to comment on the Air Force's aircraft modernisation programme, saying it was not in a position to do so.
A Reuters report said today that American aircraft manufacturer Boeing is in contention for $15 billion order to supply Indian Navy with new fighter jets.
In a surprise move, the Indian government had recently asked the Indian Air Force to open up the competition to twin-engine aircraft and to evaluate Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet, a defence ministry source told Reuters.
Earlier, Lockheed Martin Corp's F-16 and Saab AB's Gripen were in the race to supply single-engine jets to the Indian Air Force.
Both companies had offered to build the planes in India in collaboration with local companies as part of PM Modi's "Make in India" campaign.
The defence ministry plans to within weeks issue a request for information (RFI), the first stage of a procurement process, for a fighter to be built in India, Reuters report said.
The competition will be open to both single and twin-engine jets, an official told Reuters, but both Lockheed and Saab informed the newswire service that it had not been informed about the new requirements.
"The IAF wants the RFI issued within weeks and get the process started," a source told Reuters, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. "The problem is that government keeps shifting what it wants," the source added.
The defence ministry, however, declined to comment on the Air Force's aircraft modernisation programme, saying it was not in a position to do so.
Lockheed, which had offered to shift its F-16 production line in Fort Worth, Texas, to India, said it had not been told of any change to the Indian plan for single-engine fighters.
"Our proposed F-16 partnership with India stands firm," the company said in an email. Last year it picked Tata Advanced Systems as its local partner and said it was in talks with dozens of firms to build up the supplier network.
"The Government of India has not yet issued formal requirements but we are continuing to support government-to-government discussions and engage with Indian companies about F-16 industrial opportunities," Lockheed said.
Sweden's Saab told Reuters that it had seen reports in the Indian media but no new formal communication was put forward for the fighter jet programme.
"We have seen the reports in the Indian media, but no new formal communication has been made to us regarding the fighter programme," said Rob Hewson, Saab Asia Pacific's head of communications.
"The operational costs are going up with increased manpower, higher wages and general inflation. Ministry of Defence doesn’t have the luxury to go for too many platforms despite the rapidly falling squadron strength of the Air Force," said Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG told Reuters.