The Indian Air Force is in advanced stages of preparation with Boeing Aerospace, which has acquired a license from the U.S. government to allow its latest upgraded eagle to participate in the upcoming 114 combat aircraft tender.
Hailed as the largest defense contract on the global stage, it reflected its successor the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) from IAF, which was won by Dassault Rafale. Boeing hopes to put F-15EX in competition against strong contenders like Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale.
To put the constructive deal in this tender, Boeing has sought all clearance from the U.S. government to put F-15EX on the IAF watch list.
“Now that we have the marketing license it allows us to talk to the Indian Air Force directly about the capability of the fighter. We have started doing that in a small way,” said Director of India Fighters Lead of Boeing Defense, Space & Security Ankur Kanaglekar, adding that conversations between both sides are expected to gain momentum during the Aero India show next week.
The first round of discussions has already been done several times between both governments regarding F-15EX. India and the U.S. have well established defense ties over two decades, with the Indian Armed Forces procuring over $20 billion worth of weapons and military equipment through constructive deals under a growing strategic partnership.
In this mega-deal, another U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin is also pitching its F-21 fighter to the IAF, offering to manufacture the combat jet in India to win the deal estimated to be worth more than $18 billion.
Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin are deemed to be strong contenders in this contract. Both companies have a history of going head to head in the tender competition, even in U.S. deals to provide US Air Force capable combat jets.
It’s worth noting that IAF requires medium multi-role aircraft and Boeing will be offering a combat-tested platform that is heavy in a category comparable to Su-30MKI Flankers of IAF.
Boeing is set to carry an additional round of discussions with the Indian side during the Aero India Exhibition. The multi-billion dollar contract Boeing has will go on equal footing with Dassault Rafale, which IAF favored in the previous deal.
F-15EX can be a monumental acquisition if IAF selected the bird. F-15 has a distinctive service record with various air forces around the world, especially the Israeli Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force. First flown in 1972, the Eagle has served for nearly 49 years with major upgrades to create a more modern variant. The current upgrade, known as EX variant, will feature an advanced battle management system with various modular upgrades to increase survivability, availability and affordability, in addition to ensuring the lethality of F-15EX comparable to the fifth-generation fighter. USAF has already ordered 72 aircrafts for the fleet.
Designed by McDonnell Douglas in the early 1980s, Boeing is the prime manufacturer of the Eagle and has built around 1198 jets with approximately 30 variants and prototypes to sustain the design in the race of modern systems. Of the six air forces to operate this bird, the USAF is the largest operator.
With 100 victories in air combat and no losses, the F-15 design has remarkable serviceability, according to Boeing.
If IAF selects the aircraft, it will be a huge power balance shift in the subcontinent, as India will be the sole country to operate two heavy aircraft from Russia and the USAF and can put IAF up against China and Pakistan.