New Delhi: US defence major Boeing could offer its twin-engine tactical fighter, the F-15EX, to the Indian Air Force as part of the upcoming contest for 114 new combat jets that India has been planning to acquire for a while now.
This would be in addition to the F/A 18 Block III Super Hornets that Boeing is already offering to the IAF.
“While awaiting further definition on the Indian Air Force’s requirements, we have requested a license for the F-15 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 following queries on the issue.
Boeing officials told ThePrint that applying for a licence is a routine procedural step that allows the company flexibility to provide information on solutions as the IAF is yet to release its requirements.
Under US rules, the company must get an export licence from its government before offering its product to a second country.
FlightGlobal was the first to report the development, quoting Kelli Seybolt, deputy under secretary of the US Air Force for international affairs, that Boeing had sought an export licence for India for the F-15EX.
Number of firms already in the fray
If at all Boeing does offer the aircraft to the IAF, the F-15EX will join eight other fighters in the competition — Rafale from France, Boeing’s own F/A 18, Lockheed Martin’s F-21, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Sweden’s Gripen E, and the Russian MiG-35 and Su-35.
The F-15EX is the latest version of the successful Eagle program. The US Air Force had ordered eight of the fighters last year as part of a $ 985 million deal.
Enhancements over previous F-15s include an active electronically scanned array radar and improved payload.
A long-drawn process
The IAF’s efforts to procure the aircraft has been a long-drawn process.
The force had issued a Request for Information (RFI) in 2018 after its previous bid to procure 126 fighter jets was scrapped.
Following the deal with the French for 36 Rafales in the fly-away condition, the government and the IAF began working on bringing out a tender for single-engine fighter aircraft, keeping the cost in mind.
The defence ministry, however, sprang a surprise by questioning the need for a single-engine foreign fighter when the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme was on. This caused the IAF to retune its needs and bring out an RFI in April 2018, which did not limit its requirement to single-engine fighters.
But the entire project remains in the doldrums with the military forced into a corner due to budgetary constraints. The IAF saw a drop in capital funds allocation in the Union Budget 2020-21.