A MiG-35 fighter of the Russian Aerospace Forces underway for a training sortie

The Indian Air Force has a requirement for 110 multi-role fighters—the world’s largest open competitions for combat aircraft. Its indigenously manufactured Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft will be the successor to the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and replace a fleet of legacy aircraft to be phased out by the mid-2030s. The air force’s request for information indicates it wants a fleet that is three-fourths single-seat aircraft and one-fourth tandem. And the lion’s share of it, 85%, should be made in India under a strategic partnership. Though a final request for proposals and eventual contract award may be some time away, the multi-billion dollar prize is large enough to attract six contractors that are preparing to tie up with Indian companies and abide by India's stringent conditions in the hopes of landing the business as well as a chance at the Indian Navy’s competition for 57 fighters. Here is a guide to the seven combat aircraft in contention..

1. Dassault Rafale

In-Country Partners: Reliance Group, Mahindra, Maini Group, TAL Manufacturing Solutions, Defsys Solutions


  • Rafale to be operational in the country, with Indian specifications, next fall.
  • Carrier version available for the Indian Navy’s potential requirement of 57 fighters.
  • Thales RBE2 fifth-generation active, electronically scanned array radar.
  • Compatibility with Thales’ new Talios intelligence-gathering, surveillance-and-laser targeting pod, as well as Lockheed Martin Sniper.
  • Helmet-mounted display.
  • Spectra electronic warfare with improved jamming capacity and collaborative mode for threat location.
  • Intrapatrol voice and data link.
  • Preventive-maintenance capacity on M88 engine.
  • Dassault’s French suppliers setting up Indian supply chain.

2. MiG-35

In-Country Partner: HAL


  • Cost will be 20% cheaper than the competitors'.
  • Cost per flight hour is 2.5 times lower than MiG-29.
  • Increased payloads on nine external hardpoints.
  • Increased fuel capacity and ability to refuel other aircraft.
  • Corrosion-protection technology to operate in tropical climates and at sea.
  • Three-channel digitally-integrated fly-by-wire control systems with quadruple redundancy.
  • Reduced radar signature.
  • Thrust-vector capability, integrated into the aircraft’s RD-33 engine.
  • HAL will help UAC leverage existing production facilities in Nasik.
  • The air force already flies the MiG-35’s precursor, the MiG-29, which is being upgraded to the MiG-28 (UPG) level in Nasik.
  • Making the MiG-29 into a MiG-35 is a logical work extension that could happen in several stages, the first being modular assembly using mod kit supplied by the Russian company. In the future, jointly with India, the full production cycle would be localised.

3. Su-35 Flanker-E

In-Country Partner: HAL


  • The Indian Air Force operates the Su-30MKI, and the Su-35 is a modernised version.
  • Ability to operate independently, in a group of aircraft or as part of a battle group controlled from an aerial, ground- or ship-based command centre.
  • Single integrated information-management system.
  • Covert attacks on radio-emitting aerial targets at mid- and long-range.
  • Attacks ground and sea-surface targets with guided high-precision missiles without entering air-defence zones.
  • Simultaneous air-to-air and air-to surface operations.
  • Can manoeuvre at +9g with high angle of attack.
  • Central control column is fitted with a Zvezda K-36D-3.5E zero-zero ejection seat.
  • The aircraft has 12 hardpoints for carrying external weapons and stores. The Su-35 can be armed with a range of guided bombs, including the KAB-500Kr TV-guided bomb, KAB-500S-E satellite-guided bomb, LGB-250 laser-guided bomb, Kab-1500Kr TV-guided bomb and KAB-1500LG laser-guided bomb.
  • Two Saturn UF AL-31F 117S turbofan engines with thrust-vectoring nozzle control, each supplying 86.3-kN thrust or 142.2-kN with afterburn.

4. Boeing Block III Super Hornet

In-Country Partners: Dynamatic Technologies, Mahindra Aerospace & Defence, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.


  • Conformal Fuel Tanks, adding 3,500 lb. of additional fuel to extend range by up to 120 nm.
  • Reduced radar signature.
  • Advanced cockpit system with touchscreen display.
  • Increased computing power and expanded capacity to transfer data.
  • Block II Infrared search and track.
  • Designed for operations on aircraft carriers, including ability to fold wings.
  • GE F414 engine, in the same family as the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft powerplant.
  • Boeing has a seven-decade relationship with India, though sourcing from India is now close to $1 billion a year.
  • Runway access to test aircraft.
  • Boeing is building a Factory of the Future on 42 acres adjacent to Kempegowda International Airport outside of Bangalore.
  • Boeing has more than 160 suppliers in-country. Its India Engineering & Technology Centre employs 1,679 engineers.

5. Eurofighter Typhoon

In-Country Partners: Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL).


  • Simultaneously deployable air-to-air and air-to-surface capabilities.
  • Two Eurojet EJ200 engines—each capable of providing up to 60 kN (13,500 lb.) of dry thrust and >90 kN (20,230 lb.). with afterburners.
  • With the Spear 3, each Typhoon can carry up to 12 mini cruise missiles, plus a full air-to-air weapons suite.
  • State-of-the-art data-imaging software.
  • Eurofighter partners Airbus and BAE Systems have longstanding ties to India.
  • HAL and BAE Systems have collaborated on aircraft for seven decades.
  • Proposal includes industrialisation, transfer of technology and licensed production of the Typhoon.
  • Airbus is also offering to build the C295W military transport aircraft alongside TATA, and a partnership with Mahindra Defence to locally manufacture military helicopters.

6. Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70

In-Country Partner: TATA Advanced Systems Ltd.


  • Northrop Grumman APG83 advanced, electronically scanned array radar, fifth-generation multi-mode radar capability.
  • AN/APX-126 Advanced-Identification Friend-or-Foe system.
  • Joint Helmet-mounted cueing system II to work with air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons.
  • Automatic ground collision avoidance system.
  • Upgraded electronic-warfare system.
  • Compatibility with fifth-generation F-35 and F-22 fighters.
  • More than 3,300 carriage and release configurations allow more than 180 types of weapons.
  • Central pedestal display enables color moving maps and digital display of flight-instrument data.
  • Improved computing technology for data processing.
  • Embedded GPS/INS.
  • Compatibility with global F-16 fleet of 4,588 aircraft. Allows India access to F-16’s $150 billion sustainment market.
  • Will already be building F-16 wings at its joint venture facility with TATA in Hyderabad.
  • Existing in-country metal-to-metal bonding capability.
  • Indian Innovation Growth Program has backed 400 innovators and startups.

7. SAAB Gripen E

In-Country Partners: Adani Group


  • 10-min. operational turnaround time.
  • Can seamlessly shift between air-to-air, air-to-ground and reconnaissance roles as well as act in multiple roles simultaneously.
  • Active, electronically scanned array radar.
  • Advanced electronic warfare system.
  • Advanced data communications, dual data links, satellite communications and video links, to ensure pilot situational awareness.
  • Data link within a tactical air unit, between airborne early warning and control-and-command and control centres on land or at sea.
  • Smart, flexible avionic architecture allows for easy integration of weapons and for old algorithms to be swapped.
  • General Electric F414G engine.
  • Saab’s tech transfer offer envisions the overall growth of the Indian defence industry, replicating its strategic partnership in Brazil. Saab says it will transform a proposed India facility into a regional hub for Gripen.
  • Set up of a full manufacturing facility and aerospace ecosystem in India; creation of a local supplier base of ancillary systems; employment of a well-trained Indian workforce.