NEW DELHI — To accelerate the Make in India initiative under the strategic partnership model, the ruling National Democratic Alliance will formally issue a request for information next month to Lockheed Martin of the U.S. and Saab of Sweden to manufacture single-engine fighters in collaboration with a private company in the India.

The Ministry of Defence will float a request for information, or RFI, to Lockheed Martin for its F-16 Block 70 and Saab for its Gripen E next month, a senior MoD official said.

Under the new strategic partnership, or SP, model the two companies will be asked to submit offers of the single-engine fighters’ air power capabilities, the offer for India-specific technology transfer, indigenous solutions for the program and the offer for building an ecosystem for the program in the country, said a senior Indian Air force official.

“We have chosen both F-16 Block 70 and Gripen E because both single-engine fighters are fully upgraded, fully tested and are in full use,” the IAF official added.

Both Lockheed Martin and Saab will be given three months to respond to the RFI, which will then be evaluated by an IAF expert committee and the final selection will be made early next year, the IAF official added.

Likewise, an expression of interest, or EOI, will be issued to domestic companies in the next three to four months, who will, in turn, tie-up with overseas original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, to build around 120 single engine fighters, initially costing around $18 billion under the strategic partnership model, an MoD official noted.

India’s ruling NDA government unveiled the SP policy in May, which allows major private defense companies to be nominated as entities to manufacture major defense platforms in partnership with OEMs.

Under this policy, nominated private entities will build submarines, helicopters, single-engine fighters and armored vehicles and battle tanks in India in the next 20 years.

An MoD official explained, “This is a very important and complex program, and the government, therefore, will have to prepare a full proof policy so that it moves forward without any glitches and cost overruns, keeping in mind that the Indian Air Force gets the latest single-engine fighters for the next 30 to 35 years.”

We aim to ink the contract in the next three to four years and will ensure that India-specific single-engine fighter will start to be produced in the country by a private company in the next eight years, he added.

After evaluation of the EOI offer from private companies, the MoD will select two or three private players to build single-engine fighters in India.

A request of proposal or tender will be issued in the next 16 months to the selected private player who will, in turn, will tie-up with selected foreign OEMs to manufacture this fighter in India.

Both Indian players and foreign OEMs will be free to forge either a joint venture or equity partnership to execute this program in India.

A CEO of a private defense company who requested not to be named said: “This is indeed a very encouraging move by the government, because both private players and foreign OEMs were apprehensive about this program as no time frame was spelled out by the MoD.”

More In Air