So, two decades after the Indian Air Force (IAF) projected a requirement for 126 medium-role combat aircraft (MRCA), we are back to the starting point. That journey had ended abruptly in 2012 when the government, after a laboured process, selected the Dassault Rafale and began negotiations for the purchase—only to have the succeeding Narendra Modi administration scrap the deal and decide in 2014 to purchase only 36 Rafales off the shelf.
Last week, the IAF issued a request for information (RFI) for the purchase of 110 MRCA. Three-fourth of these will be single-seaters and the balance twin-seat aircraft. Eighteen or so of the aircraft would be bought off the shelf. The rest would be ‘Made in India’ through a partnership between the manufacturer and a strategic partner. The fighters would add six squadrons to the IAF; the order could be worth between $9 billion and 15 billion.