Decision on multi-billion fighter plane deal may be political

India is now closer to finalising a USD 10 billion contract for 126 fighter aircraft with IAF submitting a report on the flight evaluation of six contenders for the `mother of all deals`.

Last Updated: Aug 12, 2010, 21:48 PM IST

New Delhi: India is now closer to finalising
a USD 10 billion contract for 126 fighter aircraft with IAF
submitting a report on the flight evaluation of six contenders
for the `mother of all deals`, though top sources Thursday said
the decision could be "political".

"We have submitted a voluminous report on the performance
of the six bidding aircraft for the medium multi-role combat
aircraft (MMRCA) contract. The report is yet to be approved by
the Defence Ministry. The performance, cost and political
considerations will all be factors in deciding the winning
bid," IAF sources said here.

Mission objectives for the aircraft, national security
considerations and international relations were cited by the
sources as the "political factors" that could determine which
way the contract would go.

With the Flight Evaluation Trial (FET) report of the six
aircraft in the fray finalised, the Defence Ministry will soon
open the commercial bids of the six global fighter jet
manufacturers to identify the lowest bid.

American Lockheed Martin F-16IN and Boeing F/A-18, French
D`Assault Rafale, European consortium EADS` Eurofighter
Typhoons, Swedish SAAB Gripen and Russian MiG-35 are in the
fray for the contract for which a tender was floated in August
2007.

"We have gone exactly according to the Request for
Proposals (RFP) and have set 643 parameters or Air Staff
Qualitative Requirements (ASQRs) which the aircraft were
evaluated against for compliance. We have submitted an
objective report on the compliance and non-compliance of the
six aircraft," the sources said.

The sources made it clear that the IAF had not created a
"merit list" and had only given its reports evaluating each of
the aircraft against the ASQRs.

"The process of FET has been so rigorous and meticulous
that the trial methodology and report is probably the best in
the world and could be a model for other Air Forces for
conducting their FETs for their contracts," the sources said.

Noting that none of the aircraft had complied fully with
all the parameters set by the IAF, they said there were
"varying degrees of compliance and non-compliance" by each of
the contenders for the mega deal, estimated to be worth Rs
4,700 crore in Indian currency.

They also refused to comment on the aircraft`s
suitability for the IAF, but said, "all platforms are top of
the line aircraft."

To a query if more number of MMRCA, over and above the
126 stated in the current bids, could be ordered, the sources
said the option of going in for an additional number was part
of the tender documents, though a decision would be taken on
it only after the current deal was through.

PTI