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MRFA: Tata Advanced Systems a Strong Contender For Building Fighter Jets For The Indian Air Force 

The Indian Air Force (IAF) appears to be anticipating that the impending acquisition of new fighter jets will follow the ‘Buy Global, Make in India’ paradigm, which has previously shown to be successful in India with the Tata-Airbus partnership’s production of C-295MW cargo planes.

This would allow the Indian Air Force to quickly acquire new-generation fighter jets, which New Delhi sorely needs to counter a probable two-front conflict with China and Pakistan.

The procurement for 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) was first processed through the Strategic Partnership (SP) framework, which includes an Indian company cooperating with a foreign supplier to manufacture important platforms in India.

Two Navy initiatives are in peril at the moment. The Strategic Partnership idea has a number of faults, with the first project under it to buy Naval Utility Helicopters on the verge of failure. The arrangement has been suspended for almost two years after state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was initially barred from participating in the competition.

The defence ministry has previously placed naval utility helicopters on an import prohibition list, and a naval derivative of HAL’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) is now viewed as the top candidate for the contract.

Similarly, the aim to purchase conventional submarines under Project 75I has fallen into problems, with foreign technology providers expressing their reluctance to meet unjustifiable “joint and severe liabilities” for a product that would be built by the Indian partner.

F-21 To Be Developed By Tata?

The F-18, F-15, and F-21 are competing for the Indian Air Force contract, along with the Russian MiG-35 and Su-35, the French Rafale, the Swedish Saab Gripen, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The US military giant Lockheed Martin has been vigorously pushing their F-21 fighter aircraft for India’s sole use, stating that it is the best aircraft for the Indian Air Force. Tata Advanced Systems has already developed a cooperation with the company for this purpose.

Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems formed a joint venture in December 2021 to produce F-21 fighter wings at a site in India.

According to Lockheed, the successful development of a prototype wing for the combat aircraft shows that Tata can be a future co-producer of aerospace equipment. It also allows both companies to demonstrate to the Indian military that they can create a manufacturing environment in the country.

The alliance with Tata Group, according to Lockheed Martin, is a strategic business move that emphasises the importance of their partnerships with India and their faith in Tata for sophisticated defence manufacture.

Lockheed Martin’s decision to follow the “Buy Global, Make in India” strategy has yet to be updated.

According to India Today, the majority of businesses choose the Buy Global, Make in India strategy. Lockheed Martin will be able to execute this strategy significantly more swiftly than other organisations thanks to their collaboration with Tata.

Boeing has teamed with HAL and Mahindra to produce F/A-18 Super Hornet jets, in addition to Lockheed Martin. In contrast to the Lockheed-Tata relationship, however, there has been little advancement in the Boeing partnership.

F-21

The F-21 looks similar to the F-16 Block 70 combat aircraft. According to reports, the F-22 Raptors and the F-35 share around half of the F-21 and F-16 supply chains. The F-21, on the other hand, is distinguished by its airframe, weapon capability, engine matrix, and engine options.

With avionics stolen from the F-35 Lightning II and the F-22 Raptor, the F-21 aircraft are believed to be the most advanced F-16 ever built. As a customised offering to India, it was renamed “F-21” to reflect the upgraded performance and capabilities.

In addition to the normal boom-delivered refuelling facility, the F-21 fighters have an extended hose-and-drogue refuelling probe. Because it brings together the combined strength of Lockheed Martin and Tata Group, the F-21 is regarded to be a big “Make in India” prospect.

The French Rafale jets, which the Indian Air Force just acquired from France and is billed as the IAF’s “favourite” by many defence analysts and former officials, appear to be the biggest contenders to F-21 fighters.

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