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IAF next gen warplane will be from Europe 
Eurofighter, French Dassault shortlisted for MMRCA deal
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, April 27
In what is a defining move in the much-talked about $ 10.4-billion deal for the Indian Air Force to buy 126 fighter jets, the Ministry of Defence today effectively shortlisted two European companies.

The ministry today asked the two companies to extend the validity of their commercial bids that are slated to expire tomorrow. The other four contenders in the race have not been asked to extend the validity of their bids indicating that two European companies will form the shortlist for the purchase. “It is shortlisting as only two companies have been invited,” a source said.

A total of the six vendors were competing in the tender for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). Sources said the European consortium’s Eurofighter Typhoon and the French Dassault’s Rafale have been invited extend the commercial bids.

The Tribune was the first to report in these columns on January 11, 2011, saying Eurofighter and Rafale were the top two contenders in the evaluation trails of the IAF.

The other aircraft in the fray - the US Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, US Lockheed Martin Corporation’s F-16, Russian MiG-35 and the Swedish SAAB’s Gripen - did not come at the top of the technical evaluation. The warplanes were checked and test flown to quantify 643 parameters in the cold climate of Leh and deserts of Jaisalmer. Weapon testing was carried out in the countries of the manufacturers.

Politically, the move is significant. The European consortium comprises Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy. So far, the European nations had been left out of the “slice” of the multi-billion dollar Indian Defence Budget. The IAF is buying transport planes like the C-130-J and the C-17 in bulk from Lockheed Martin and Boeing, respectively. Both are US companies. Boeing will be supplying the long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft for the Navy while the IAF is buying its choppers, the MI-17-V, from the Russians. Besides, the Navy is getting a couple of warships built in Russia. Also, the two nations have signed contract to co-develop the fifth generation fighter aircraft for an estimated $30 billion.

Italian shipmaker Fincantieri is producing two fleet tankers while French major DCNS is making submarines. The MoD and the IAF also expect that today's move could raise the hackles of the spurned vendors. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshall PV Naik had indicated that by the end of April the shortlisting will be done.





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