New Delhi: The deal for procuring six
mid-air refueller aircraft for the Air Force has entered its
last phase with the IAF completing the field trials of the
planes on offer.
Airbus Military, one of the contenders of the deal, on Wednesday said the winter trials of the aircraft were concluded by the
end of the last year during which the IAF checked the planes
against all its specific requirements.
"Flight trials were concluded by the end of last year. So
the ball is now back in the court of Indian authorities," Ian
Elliott, Vice President, Defence Capability Marketing, Airbus
told reporters here.
He was replying to a question on the status of the deal
and whether the flight trials of the aircraft are over or not.
Talking about the requirement placed by the IAF, he said,
"Requirement is of six tankers. But it is the initial stage of
the competition and that number can probably go up because of
the nature of the requirement in this part of the world."
He denied any information on the summer trials of the
aircraft which are in the race.
"I am not aware that request is forthcoming. I am not
aware of any (such proposal)... In terms of the trials, those
(winter) were the only trials," Elliot said.
IAF has conducted three different kinds of trials of the
aircraft to check their individual performance and parameters
in several different conditions of terrain, weather and
functioning of essential equipments.
Air Force had issued the original tender for mid-air
refueller a couple of years ago, but it was cancelled
following Finance Ministry`s objection to the cost put forth
by Airbus Military, whose A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport
(MRTT) aircraft was selected for awarding the contract.
The tender was re-issued in September 2010 and Airbus
Military- a European consortium company- applied for it again.
The firm is now pitted against the Russian Ilyushin,
which has offered the IL-78 for the contract.
IAF is already operating six of the IL-78 refuellers in
its fleet for over half a decade now and the squadron is based
at Agra air force base.
The new midair refuellers are required by the IAF to
augment its existing IL-78 fleet. The air-to-air refuellers
are used by air forces for refuelling its fighters and
transport aircraft while in flight to enhance the endurance of
The midair refuellers are a major force multiplier for
air forces so as to keep their fighter jets in air to respond
to security threats for longer periods of time.
This time, the IAF has asked the global manufacturers of
midair refuellers to submit their proposals as per life cycle