The United States is aggressively pitching for 114 fighter aircraft that India is planning to produce in collaboration with a foreign player. Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing is vying with eachother to grab the $18 billion deal with India.
While Lockheed Martin has offered India-specific F-21 fighter jets (a variant of F-16), Boeing was pitching for F/A 18 Super Hornet. Now Boeing has sought formal permission from US authorities to offer F-15EX fighter jets to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
“While awaiting further definition on the Indian Air Force’s requirements, we have requested a licence for the F-15EX so that we’re ready to share the full spectrum of potential solutions across our fighter portfolio when appropriate,” Boeing said in a statement.
“We continue to offer the F/A-18 Super Hornet to both the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force,” it added.
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The F-15EX is a heavy fighter jet capable of carrying up to 22 air-to-air missiles or a mix of ground-attack weapons. Though in a heavier class than its competitors, F-15EX is the fastest aircraft in production and is known for its ability to carry a phenomenal weapon load.
In April last year, the Indian Air Force issued an RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender to acquire 114 jets. The top contenders for the deal include Lockheed’s F-21, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft MiG 35 and Saab’s Gripen.
In 2018, the Indian Navy kick-started the process to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its carriers. At present, six planes are compatible for the aircraft carrier — Rafale (Dassault, France) F/A 18 Super Hornet (Boeing, US), MIG-29K (Russia), F-35B and F-35C (Lockheed Martin, US) and Gripen (Saab, Sweden).
New Delhi plans to opt for a strategic partnership model for 114 medium-role combat aircraft (MRCA) under which an Indian company will manufacture the new jets in collaboration with a foreign partner. US firm Lockheed Martin has tied up with Tata Aerospace and Defence for its offering, while Boeing has a tri-party agreement with Mahindra and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for F/A 18.