India is considering the Lockheed Martin F-16 and the Saab Gripen to supplement its single-engine fighter fleet. Pictured: the F-16 Fighting Falcon. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Norman
NEW DELHI, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- India will soon accept bids to manufacture foreign single-engine fighters, the country's top defense official disclosed.
The announcement came from Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, who said the decision supports the country's Make In India initiative. The program aims to bolster indigenous government programs, including large-scale defense projects.
Parrikar's announcement suggests the Indian air force is turning away from the Tejas, an Indian-made jet initially slated to replace the country's aging fleet of MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft according to Defense News.
"We will submit a new acceptance of necessity proposal for new single-engine fighters to Ministry of Defense in the next four months, and will request to fast-pace this new program," a senior Indian air force official said, adding the branch aims to build 200 new single-engine fighters in the country.
Lockheed Martin and Saab are expected to pitch the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Gripen, respectively.
Despite throwing the Tejas effort into doubt, Parrikar maintains the country is committed to procuring the jet. Hindustan Times reports the country's navy will continue supporting the fighter's development. However, the branch is also seeking a twin-engine jet. Parrikar adds the navy is eyeing the Dassault-made Rafale.
"The second line of single-engine requirement is also felt, for which we are thinking of using the strategic partnership route," he said.