Eurofighter versus Rafale in India’s $10.4-billion combat jet tender

IANS

It is now virtually an all-European battle for India’s $10.4-billion order for 126 combat jets with the US and Russia almost out of the race after the defence ministry Wednesday asked EADS and Dassault to extend the validity of their commercial bids.

With this indirect down select, it is almost clear that American majors Boeing and Lockheed Martin have not made the cut and neither have Sweden’s SAAB and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) in the tender for the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF), described as the ‘mother of all defence deals’.

An official announcement in this regard is expected Thursday from the defence ministry, an official told IANS.

EADS has offered its Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault the Rafale for the tender issued in August 2007. Boeing had pitted the F/A-18, Lockheed Martin the F-16, UAC the MiG-35 and SAAB the Gripen against the two fighter jets that are now deemed to have cleared the technical evaluation completed by the IAF last March.

The commercial bids for the contract were to expire Thursday and had to be extended by the competing vendors on a request from the defence ministry.

‘It (the down select) is not official yet. An announcement is likely to be made Thursday,’ the official said, when asked if EADS and Dassault are the only two firms to have been asked to extend the validity of their commercial bids.

The four-year contest for the Indian contract was hard fought by all the six vendors with ‘aggressive marketing’ by them.

Except for EADS and UAC, all the other firms had offered and allowed joy rides by Indian politicians, movie stars and journalists during the biennial AeroIndia show held in February at Yelahanka air base in Bangalore in 2009 and 2011.

The tendering process itself was threatened earlier this year after the offset plans of the six firms went missing after a bureaucrat in the defence ministry lost the file while carrying it home and was later found on the roadside in south Delhi within a few hours.

A probe held by the defence ministry indicted the bureaucrat, but concluded that tender was not compromised by the official’s lapse and decided to complete the process.

The deal, to be finalised this fiscal, will fetch India $5 billion investment in the form of 50 percent offsets, a clause that mandates the winning firm to plough back half the deal’s worth to energise the Indian defence industry.

While the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, had pressed for the deal to be finalised by July this year, when his tenure ends, Defence Minister A.K. Antony had said during the AeroIndia show in February that the contract would be awarded before March 2012.

On Monday, Antony had also warned the army and air force top brass in their conferences being held here to be wary of ‘corrupt practices by vested interests in the garb of aggressive marketing’ in some of the major defence deals that India was to sign this year, including the combat jet contract.

India has earmarked Rs.69,199 crore ($15 billion) for capital expenditure in the defence budget for 2011-12 in view of the major defence deals to be clinched this fiscal.

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Posted by pilotpaul on Apr 27 2011. Filed under Airforce, All News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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