It has sought information from global manufacturers for 57 multi role carrier-borne fighters. "Multi role fighters are intended as day and night capable, all-weather multi-role deck based combat aircraft which can be used for air defense, air-to-surface operations, buddy refueling, reconnaissance and EW missions from Indian Naval aircraft carriers," reads document issued for global suppliers.
Apart from some basic guidelines for procurement, Indian Navy has sought answers on the configuration in 55 pages on a range of issues like electronic warfare capability, endurance and payload. Indian government is desirous of license production of the aircraft after acquiring Transfer of technology in the case.
The Indian Navy has asked global manufacturers questions like whether the twin- seat variant retains all operational attributes of the single seat variant (radar, air to air refueling)?
It also asked for the capability of long/ medium range Beyond Visual Range air to air missiles, short range anti-ship missiles, precision guided munitions and unguided munitions which will be integrated on the aircraft and likely to be offered to Indian Navy.
Indian Navy also wants to know from the global manufacturers whether the aircraft has a swing-role capability for the simultaneous carriage of strike weapons and air-to-air missiles.
"Does the aircraft have capability to operate from both STOBAR (Short Take-off But Arrested Recovery) and CATOBAR (Catapult Take-off But Arrested Recovery) aircraft carriers without any modification to the aircraft?" another question.
Selected aircraft will operate from indigenously developed Vikrant aircraft carrier which will be conventional ski jump based STOBAR layout. Configuration for second aircraft carrier has not yet been finalized.
Swedish Saab has claimed that its single engine Sea Gripen has capability to operate from both STOBAR/CATOBAR. Russian made MiG-29K also operates from STOBAR. Both these fighter will receive major competition from India's own LCA Navy MK2, as it may find favor from Indian government to promote Make in India component.
Only last month, Indian Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanma had rung the alarm when he said the indigenous LCA Navy MK-1Tejas was too heavy for aircraft carriers and not fit in current form.
If the Indian Navy wants fighters for CATOBAR, Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault's Rafale M and Lockheed Martin's F-35C will find place in this competition.
However, the winner of the competition will have to invest 30 per cent of commercial value under offset contracts. Request for information indicates that delivery for the aircraft is expected only after 2021; by the time India's LCA NAVY MK-2 may prove to be a tough competitor for offerings by foreign firms.