Three Lockheed F-16 fighter jets have begun flying trials in India to demonstrate the aircraft’s suitability for the Indian Air Force’s $10bn combat fighter deal.

The Indian Air Force plans to buy 126 medium multirole combat aircraft to replace its existing MiG-21 fleet.

The trials, to be held in three phases, will include familiarisation, field trials and a weapon systems trial.

Field trials for the aircraft after the training phase will continue to 18 September 2009 in Bangalore, Jaisalmer and Leh to test the fighter in different weather conditions.

The three F-16s have been in service with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force and flew into Bangalore on 2 September 2009.

During the trials, the F-16s will demonstrate their striking power, speed, accuracy and 360° manoeuvres to the IAF.

Lockheed plans to supply India with the F-16 Super Viper version that will be customised to the air force’s needs if it wins the deal.

The other bidders for the deal include Boeing’s F/A-181N Super Hornet that has already begun trials, the Dassault’s Rafale, the Saab’s Gripen, the Russian MiG-35 and EADS Eurofighter Typhoon.