India seeks bids for 126 fighter jets

New Delhi, August 28:

India today invited bids from defence contractors around the world for its purchase of 126 fighter jets in a deal estimated at nearly nine billion dollars, the defence ministry said today.

“The ball is now rolling,” spokesman Sitanshu Kar said of the world’s largest fighter plane

deal in 15 years.

The contenders will have to meet “three guiding principles” — meeting the operational requirements of the Indian air force, a “fair and transparent” selection process and the deal should also benefit domestic arms firms.

Industry sources say the Russian-built MiG-35 and MiG-29 aircraft and the US-based Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F-18 were frontrunners.

The terms of the deal were fine-tuned by a policy-making body in June. Also in the race

to replace a chunk of India’s ageing fleet of 700 MiG-21s are Eurofighter’s Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen and Dassault’s Rafale and Mirage — although price considerations have left

these contenders at a disadvantage, defence officials said.