US defence major Boeing is considering offering its F-15EX fighter jets to the Indian Air Force and has sought a licence from the US authorities for its possible export to India.
The move is seen as an attempt by Boeing to bag a $18 billion contract by IAF to procure 114 fighter jets.
India’s multi-billion-dollar programme to acquire new fighter jets could see another contender in F 15EX of Boeing, with the company seeking formal US permission to offer it to India. New Delhi is planning to produce 114 combat aircraft at more than $15 billion in partnership with a domestic company.
The F 15EX, a heavy fighter jet capable of carrying up to 22 air-to-air missiles or a mix of ground-attack weapons, will be the third American aircraft in the fray. “The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force have distinct operational needs for fighters. While awaiting further definition on the Indian Air Force’s requirements, we have requested a licence for F 15EX so that we’re ready to share the full spectrum of potential solutions across our fighter portfolio when appropriate,” a Boeing spokesperson said in response to a query after a US official disclosed that export permissions had been sought.
Boeing’s F/A 18 Block III Super Hornet is already in contention for the deal, billed as one of the world’s biggest military procurement programme in recent years.
“While awaiting further definition on the Indian Air Force’s requirements, we have requested a licence for the F-15EX so that we’re ready to share the full spectrum of potential solutions across our fighter portfolio when appropriate,” the company said in a statement.
Besides the contract by the IAF, Boeing is also eyeing Indian Navy’s plan to procure 57 carrier-borne aircraft.
“We continue to offer the F/A-18 Super Hornet to both the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force,” the Boeing said.
The company already announced that it was ready to set up manufacturing facilities for its F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft if it bags the IAF contract.
In April last year, the Indian Air Force issued an RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender to acquire 114 jets.
The top contenders for the deal include Lockheed’s F-21, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft MiG 35 and Saab’s Gripen.
In 2018, the Indian Navy kick-started the process to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its carriers.
At present, six planes are compatible for the aircraft carrier — Rafale (Dassault, France) F/A 18 Super Hornet (Boeing, US), MIG-29K (Russia), F-35B and F-35C (Lockheed Martin, US) and Gripen (Saab, Sweden).