India to award USD 11 bn M-MRCA deal within next one month

Ajit K Dubey

Bangalore, Feb 10 (PTI) India will pick up by next onemonth the vendor for its biggest-ever military fighter dealfor purchasing 126 Medium-Multirole Combat Aircraft at a costof USD 11 billion, the contract of which is expected to befinalised by September.

Addressing a press conference here, Air Chief Marshal P VNaik said all the problems related to the offsets proposalshave been sorted out and if the bid losers "don''t put spokesin the wheel," the deal would be finalised in the giventimeframe.

"We hope to start the contract negotiations in the nexttwo to four weeks and the deal may be signed by September," hesaid.

The IAF had submitted its field evaluation trial reporton July 30 last year and the Defence Ministry has been goingthrough it to determine the aircraft meeting IAF''srequirement.

Six aircraft including Russian MiG-35, American F-16 andF/A-18, Swedish Gripen, European Eurofighter and French Rafaleare in the race for the multi-billion dollar contract.

Naik said "unless dissatisfied vendors put spokes", whichmay involve getting clearances from the Central VigilanceCommission or legal proceedings, the deal would be finalisedby September -- in the next fiscal.

The IAF is planning to induct these aircraft to augmentits number and replace the Russian-origin MiG series aircraft,which are on their way out of the service.

Complementing the IAF team involved in the evaluationtrials, Naik said the process was a "complicated" one as eachaircraft had to be tested for 600 different parameters by theIAF.

Under the procurement process, the Defence Ministrynegotiates with the company offering the lowest price for theequipment required by respective services.

Asked about the procurement of new cluster bombs fromAmerican firm Textron, he said that would be first put on theJaguar deep penetration fighters by the IAF.

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