Strategic considerations may influence MMRCA deal

Ahead of the flight trials of six contenders for India`s USD 10-billion medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract this month, strategic considerations may influence government`s final decision IAF sources said on Tuesday.

New Delhi: Ahead of the flight trials of
six contenders for India`s USD 10-billion medium multi-role
combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract this month, strategic
considerations may influence government`s final decision,
Indian Air Force (IAF) sources said here on Tuesday.

"Strategic issues may influence the decision as the
Cabinet Committee on Security will take a final call based
on political and strategic considerations. The winner of the
126 combat aircraft contract need not necessarily be the
lowest bidder," senior IAF officials said.
They were answering to a question if bitter past
experiences with Russia on spare supplies and US over
technology denials would be taken into consideration before
the mother of all defence deals was awarded.

"The DPP does not provide for splitting the aircraft
order, although the government has the right to place orders
with any company," they said when asked if the contract
could be awarded to two different contenders by splitting the
number of aircraft required by the IAF.

The tender for the MMRCA was issued in late 2007 and
the elaborate process of evaluating the technical proposals
from US` Lockheed Martin F-16, Boeing F/A-18, Russian MiG-35,
SAAB Gripen, EADS Eurofighter Typhoon and French Rafale had
been completed this March.

At first, Boeing will bring its aircraft for the flight
trials, which is beginning this month in Bangalore, after
which the planes would be taken to Jaisalmer and Leh for
further trials in hot and cold weather conditions.

The other contending aircraft would be brought later,
the officials said, adding the trials are expected to be
completed within a year.

"While the IAF will deal with the technical proposals
from the six contending companies, the commercial proposals
will be handled by the government after technical evaluation
is completed," they said.

During the evaluation process, the IAF`s qualified
pilots and engineers would test the six aircraft for engine
and all systems` performance and the data will be compiled to
arrive at the final "cost of ownership" worked out on the
basis of acquisition, maintenance, spares and life cycle costs
of buying and operating the aircraft for a maximum of four
decades, they said.

"Once the evaluation report is submitted to the
government, the commercial proposals from the six companies
will be opened for comparison with the report and the
Services Qualitative Requirements stated in the tender. We
need to find which aircraft`s cost of ownership will be the
lowest," they said.

Asked about the six aircraft in the race not meeting
the SQRs set in the tenders at present, they said the
technical evaluation committee report would provide equal
opportunity to the competitors to demonstrate how they would
meet the SQRs, which were mission-related.

"The six companies need to convince us that all
parameters set in the SQRs will be met when the first aircraft
joins the IAF service after the order is placed. Some of these
hi-tech systems, such as the Active Electronically Scanned
Array (AESA) radar, could be in development stage at present.
But finally the company needs to deliver it during acceptance
test before induction. That is all that matters," they said.

To another query, the IAF officials said they had
provided for the future in the SQRs by looking at
technological advancements and allowing the scope for
upgrading the aircraft as new technologies emerge.

They said the tender also included transfer of
technology (TOT) for production of the aircraft within India
and that the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
would be handling the TOT part of the contract.

Bureau Report