Here's why India could become Asia's hub for fighter jets


By Dario Leone
Feb 15 2018
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Several companies are trying to sell their aircraft to the country to modernize its fighter fleet

This article originally appeared in Fighter Jets World on Feb. 7, 2018.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has been undergoing a modernization program to replace and upgrade its aging fighter fleet since the late 1990s. The main goal of IAF fighter fleet modernization plan is to replace aircraft purchased from Soviet Union that currently form the backbone of the service. On Jan. 3, 2017, Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar claimed that IAF is in need of “200 new single engine fighters to be made in India, which will easily cost around (USD)$45 million apiece without weaponry.”

Two companies replied to IAF request for information (RFI) for a new single-engine fighter.

Here's why India could become Asia's hub for fighter jets

Swedish planemaker SAAB announced its intention to partner with Adani Group to build the Gripen E fighter jet in India. As reported last September by The Hindu Business Line, the claim had been confirmed by Gautam Adani, Chairman, Adani Group, who explained “SAAB is looking for long-term partnership and willing to transfer technology and skills. Gripen will be offered to the Indian government as one of the best solution for India’s single engine fighter aircraft.”

Last F-16 ever to be produced at Fort Worth

Lockheed Martin and Tata Group instead signed an agreement to build the F-16 in India. Noteworthy Lockheed Martin thinks that the Viper would be the perfect aircraft to meet the country requirement for a new single-engine fighter to modernize its aging military fleet of about 650 planes. But as explained by The Economic Times the agreement, which was signed at last year Paris Air Show, is subject to the condition that the F-16 emerges as the winner of the single engine fighter aircraft competition.

Japan to deploy its first F-35A Stealth Fighter at Misawa Air Base this month

Another Lockheed Martin proposal it to build the F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter jet in India. Noteworthy manufacturing the Lightning II in the country would give the Indian industry the chance to become part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem. “We plan to introduce two new words into the lexicon of international fighter aircraft manufacturing: ‘India’ and ‘exclusive’,” Vivek Lall, vice president, strategy and business development, at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics said at The Economic Times.

Finally, aiming to the Indian Navy procurement of 57 multi-role carrier-borne fighters (MRCBF), Boeing offered to set up an F/A-18 Super Hornet production facility in the country. “We are talking about creating a next generation facility in India. We think the Super Hornet is the most advanced airplane that India could manufacture which will lead to the next generation of aeroplane that India will design and build here, he Further added that F/A 18 Super Hornet will not require any modifications to operate from Indian carriers and will have lowest cost per hour flight ratio compared to other such platforms. He said Boeing was also looking at requirements of the Indian Air Force to replace its ageing MiG-21 jets. In January, the Indian Navy had launched a Request for Information (RFI) to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its carrier,” said Dan Gillian, Vice President of Boeing’s F/A 18 program.

VFA-2 F/A-18F
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-2 Bounty Hunters, NE100 / 166804 / 2016

If India purchases two among the jets listed above to flank Sukhoi Su-30, Dassault Rafale and Mikoyan MiG-29K the country not only will become Asia’s hub for fighter jets but will also feature one of the most modern fighter forces in the region.

Photo credit: Arz1969 (Ministry of Defense – Lithuania), via Wikimedia Commons, Lockheed Martin, 

Artwork courtesy of

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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