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Rafale & Eurofighter shortlisted by India

With European fighters surging ahead of the American jets in the hotly-contested race to bag the gigantic $10.4 billion project to supply 126 medium multi-role fighter aircraft (MMRCA), India has now virtually shortlisted or “down-selected” two out of the six contenders in the fray.

Sources said Eurofighter Typhoon (backed by UK, Germany, Spain and Italy) and French Rafale are the ones most likely to figure in the shortlist of the jets which have met the technical requirements, even though US has been hard-selling its F/A-18 ‘Super Hornet’ and F-16 ‘Falcon’ jets. The other two are the Swedish Gripen and Russian MiG-35.


Though there was no official word from the defence ministry on Wednesday, sources said the sealed commercial bids of the shortlisted aviation majors will now be opened for the final negotiations to select the eventual winner in this “mother of all defence deals”.

Under the project, 18 jets will be bought off-the-shelf, while 108 will be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd after transfer of technology.

IAF, on its part, had submitted its flight evaluation trials and staff evaluation reports to MoD a year ago after evaluating the six fighters on as many as 643 technical attributes during the gruelling field trials.

This will be the first time that India will take into account “life-cycle costs” — the cost of operating the fighters over a 40-year period, with 6,000 hours of flying — rather than just pitching for the lowest bidder in a defence contract.

The contract also specifies 50% offsets, under which the selected foreign vendor will be required to plough half of the contract forex value back into India.

IAF is keen to induct the first lot of these 126 fighters by 2014 to retain its combat edge. It is left with just 32 fighter squadrons (each has 12 to 18 jets) at present, down from the “sanctioned” strength of 39.5 squadrons. This when Pakistan is getting new American F-16s and Chinese fighters, while China assiduously builds new airbases in Tibet and south China.

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