Strategic considerations may influence MMRCA deal
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Last Updated: Tuesday, August 11, 2009, 21:59
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

First Published: Tuesday, August 11, 2009, 21:59

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