IAF to sign contract for combat aircraft in 2011

Bangalore, July 16 (IAF) The Indian Air Force (IAF) will sign the contract to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) in 2011 after the bidding process, the chief of air staff said Friday.

‘We will be signing the contract for the combat aircraft within a year. The flight evaluation report on the bidding aircraft will be ready by this month-end,’ Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik told IANS here.

The IAF will submit the evaluation report to the defence ministry for assessment and clarifications, if any, as per the laid down procedure.

‘As per the procedure, the sealed bids will be opened and the aircraft will be short-listed for commercial evaluation,’ Naik said on the margins of the Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE) raising day.

Noting that all the six fighters, which are in race for the prestigious IAF order were very good, Naik said the choice of the aircraft would be decided on technical evaluation.

‘Our selection will be based on technical evaluation. We will submit our decision on that basis only,’ he said.

The six global aerospace majors contending for the estimated $10-billion order are the US-based Lockheed Martin F-16s and Boeing’s F/A-18IN Super Hornet, Eurofighter’s Typhoon, French Dassault’s Rafale, Swiss SAAB’s Gripen and Russian MiG-35.

The IAF plans to acquire 18 of the 126 in ready-to-fly condition, with the remaining 118 being manufactured by the Indian defence behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) under technology transfer and licensed production, to replace the force’s ageing Russian MiG-21 fleet and enhance its strike capability.

The air force can also exercise the option of buying another 63 fighters subsequently.

As part of the bid, the Indian government has made it mandatory for the winning bidder to outsource 50 percent of the deal as offset from the domestic aerospace industry.

All the six bidders submitted fresh bids last month after the timeline for the original bids lapsed in April due to procedural delays.

The IAF test pilots completed the field and flight evaluation trials over a five-month period beginning mid-February.

The air force formed two teams of two test pilots each for flight trials in India and in the countries of the respective bidders after the request for proposals was submitted in 2008.

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