Given the current strain in Indo-US ties, Dassault Rafale & Eurofighter Typhoon are highlighted

by Vishwanath Patil

The Indian MoD's plan to purchase 110 fighter jets may be its costliest fighter jet buy ever with the entire deal pegged at US$18 billion despite 85% of the aircraft to be manufactured in India.

With the date for response to the Request for information (RFI) drawing near, several foreign aircraft suppliers are gearing up to participate in the estimated $20 billion program, billed as one of the biggest in the world and the costliest fighter jet purchase in India.

In comparison, when India floated the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) proposal in 2007, the price for 126 aircraft with a complement of weapons was estimated at US$`12 billion. Costs had increased to US$20 billion in 2015 when the entire procurement was canceled. Subsequently India directly negotiated with France to buy 36 Rafale jets.

However, all aircraft manufacturers have upgraded their technology and incorporated new systems such as radars and avionics which will naturally push up the cost.

Even India's home-grown Light Combat Aircraft manufactured by HAL has seen its price rise to $67.5 million per jet. HAL had quoted the price in response to a request for a proposal by the Defence Ministry to induct 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) into the Indian Air Force under the ‘Make in India’.

The RFI that was launched in April this year ends on July 6. The RFI sought information from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on the specifics of the aircraft for both single engine and twin-engine fighter jets. According to the RFI, India intends to purchase a maximum of 15 percent of the total 110 fighters in fly away condition and manufacture the rest 85 percent.

For the 15 percent off-the-shelf purchase, the prices of these aircraft will surely come at international price. But for the 85 percent of the aircraft to be made in India, price would vary depending on infrastructure set-up in India, investment by its Indian Partner, offsets and technology transfer. The total cost of the procurement could be between $18 billion to $20 billion.

The major contenders for the competition are likely to be American Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70, French Dassault Rafale, Swedish SAAB’s Gripen, Russian MiG-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon. The new aircraft are intended to replace the IAF's MiG21 jets.

The unit prices for the fly-away aircraft excludes sunk costs such as research and development, supplementary costs such as support equipment, and future costs such as spares and maintenance.

Various price estimates are being offered by the contenders for the project. Indian publication, Indian Express mentioned the offered unit estimated prices of the Saab Gripen as Rs 455 crore ($65 million), and Lockheed Martin F-16 for Rs 380 crore ($55.4 million) for manufacturing in India. However actual prices should depend on the requirements of the Request For Proposal (RFP) and final price negotiated with the successful bidder.

Based on the recent deals of the competitor sales of fighter aircraft to their customers and their estimates are as follows.