Russia's MiG-35, a upgraded derivative of MiG-29 is said to be back in the reckoning for the deal

New Delhi: In the 114 multirole fighter aircraft project planned to be built indigenously, the Indian Air Force is now working to prepare a level-playing field for single-engine and twin-engine combat aircraft expected to participate in the competition.

Seven fighter aircraft including the F-21 from Lockheed Martin, F-18 and F-15 from Boeing, Gripen from SAAB, MiG-35 and Sukhoi-35 from ROSOBORONEXPORT and Rafale from Dassault Aviation are the likely participants for the deal, which is likely to cost over USD 20 billion.

"In the competition, there are both single-engine and twin-engine aircraft. We are looking to prepare the qualitative requirement specifications in a way that there is a level-playing field between both the fighters and there can be a fair competition between them," top IAF sources told ANI.

In a competition between twin-engine and single-engine fighter planes, the latter has a cost advantage as there is one engine less required to power the planes but the former gives an edge in terms of safety and performance.

The competition has the F-21 and the Saab Gripen as the single-engine jets while the other five are twin-engine fighter jets.

The Indian Air Force will shortly also be preparing the statement of the case for acquisition and move it to the Defence Acquisition Council for the approval of the tender by the Defence Ministry.

The IAF has plans of acquiring the 114 fighter jets through the strategic partnership route where indigenous firms would partner with the global manufacturers to produce 96 of these planes in India.

The government had acquired 36 Rafale jets in 2016 through an emergency clause to fill the capability gap due to the inability to finalise the 126 multirole fighter aircraft deal with French Dassault Aviation due to complications in tender requirements.

The 36 aircraft would start arriving in the country from May this year in Ambala followed by the Hashimara airbase in West Bengal.