India moved a step closer to inviting bids for the purchase of 114 fighter jets, currently the world's largest deal in play, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to boost the capability of the country's armed forces and replace an aging combat aircraft fleet.
The deal -- valued at more than $15 billion -- has attracted initial offers from global defense majors, including Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Sweden's Saab AB. At least 85% of production has to be in India, according to an initial document issued more than a year back.
Modernizing the country's defense forces is critical for PM Modi, who hardly signed any new major arms deals during his first term, even as twin threats from neighboring China and Pakistan loomed. A Pakistani F-16 jet downed an aging Soviet-era MiG 21 -- Indian Air Force's mainstay -- in a dogfight during a military confrontation earlier this year.
The evaluation of initial bids and finalizing the Air Forces' requirements has begun, junior Defense minister Shripad Naik told lawmakers in parliament. The government is also drafting initial documents to purchase tanks and armored vehicles, as well as asking foreign shipbuilders to show interest to manufacture submarines in India, he said. (end of excerpt)
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