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Military Aviation

India: the countdown has begun for the award of the 126 light combact aircraft contract

New Delhi, India - Boeing and Lockheed Martin better than Gripen, Typhoon, MiG and Rafale


(WAPA) - The countdown has started for the awards of the world's greatest contract for the supplying of 126 single multi-role light combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

The deal worth more than USD 10 billion and the competitors are:

- Boeing with F/A-18 Super Hornet;
- Lockheed Martin with F-16 Fighting Falcon;
- RSK MiG Corp with MiG-35;
- Gripen International (SAAB Group) with JAS-39;
- European consortium (UK, Germany, Italy and Spain) with Eurofighter Typhoon;
- Dassault with Rafale.

The multi-role fighter is a key aircraft of India military aviation planned in three main systems on the strength of weight and dimensions (see AVIONEWS). One of the aircraft belonging to the first category is the Indian-developed Tejas; the light combat fighter will be part of the second, while the fighters as Sukhoi Su-30MKI belong to the third.

The selection process starts with a technical study by Air Force after the the bid submissions, following there will be the assessment of the financial and technical aspects by Defense Ministry. Finally, the Cabinet Office will make a political and strategical analysis.

The hot favourites of the tender seem to be the American F-16 and F/A-18 Super Hornets aircraft. Boeing industry hopes to leverage the bankable offsets to enhance its standing. Boeing has a tremendous track record of offsets, investing close to USD 30 billion in 35 countries. Recently, Boeing has awarded an order for 68 aircraft by Air India, for a value of over USD 11 billion.

The win prospects of this great contract are connected to the offset norms, so among the possible finalists there is also Lockheed Martin, which has found a collaboration with state-owned and private companies such Hindustan Aeronautics, Bharat Electronics, Bharat Heavy Engineering, and Tatas for joint defense projects.

Among the candidates who are likely to be chosen, there is Sweden industry Gripen International that has offered a full transfer of technology along with a state-of-the-art weapons systems for its JAS-39 (read AVIONEWS). Recently, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt visited India and met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defense Minister A K Antony.

However, several experts consider probable the win of the Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, MiG-35 and F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft over the Gripen, which has been compared to the domestic Tejas light combat aircraft.

Whereas Russian Government, already with numerous defense commitments to India, has been unhappy about the recent overtures by New Delhi to Israel, Europe and the US for new defense deals. Moscow has asked to renegotiate recent Sukhoi fighter jet and Gorskov air carrier deals.

In last five years, Israel has overtaken France and the United Kingdom to become India's second-largest defense supplier, behind Russia. USA is the latest to join this strategic competition since 2005, awarding a USD 1.1 billion deal for C-130-J Super Hercules transport planes. (Avionews)

(World Aeronautical Press Agency - )
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