The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) plans to fit its Anglo-French Jaguar fighter planes with new engines seem to be in trouble with one of the global firms in the race indicating it may back out.
The IAF last year issued the tenders to two firms – Britain’s Rolls Royce and US Honeywell – for 200 engines estimated to cost around Rs.3,000 crore (Rs.30 billion/$670 million) for the new engines (re-engining in aviation parlance) of the deep penetration strike aircraft fleet.
“We have issued the Request for Proposal (RFP) to two vendors. We are awaiting the technical and commercial response from the two vendors,” a top IAF officer said here Tuesday. The two firms have been given time till February end to respond to the tenders, he said.
But Rolls Royce indicated it may not respond to the tender, thereby leading to a single vendor situation which goes against the Indian defence procurement procedures.
The IAF has five operational Jaguar squadrons at present, but one of them is for maritime role. The re-engining program seems to cover only the other four Jaguar squadrons comprising over 60 of these fighter jets.
India had inducted the twin-turbofan-engine Jaguars in its fleet beginning 1979. It is now over three decades that these aircraft have served the IAF.
Over the years, the IAF official said, the thrust provided by the existing two Rolls Royce Adour Mk811 engines seemed not quite enough, forcing the IAF to go in for new engines for the aircraft.
IAF was now eying the Rolls Royce’s Adour Mk821 engines or the Honeywell’s F125IN engines for its Jaguars, both of which provide over 40 Kilo Newton thrust.
But a Rolls Royce official, on conditions of anonymity, indicated the company may not respond to the tenders.
The official said, “From the outset the Rolls-Royce proposal has been an optimized cost effective, low risk Adour ‘engine upgrade’ program which would minimize aircraft integration and would utilize the existing Adour infrastructure in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. However, the RFP calls for a new engine, not an upgraded engine.”
Asked if the firm was not responding to the tender, the official said, “At this moment, we would not like to make an official statement.”