22nd September 2011 inewsone.com
New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) A key defence ministry panel will meet next month to thrash out major hiccups in the efforts of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to ink a deal before the end of the year for 126 combat jets in a $10.4 billion deal, a top commmander said Thursday.
The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, told reporters here Thursday that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, will meet on Oct 7 to discuss the pending issues relating to the the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender.
‘We have a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council on Oct 7 when some of the issues are going to be discussed,’ Browne said, when asked about the MMRCA decision. The tender was issued in August 2007.
He was speaking to reporters ahead of Air Force Day October 8.
India had in April down-selected the European consortium EADS Cassidian’s Eurofighter Typhoon and French Dassault’s Rafale as the final contenders for the deal, rejecting offers of US majors Boeing’s F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35 and Swedish Saab’s Gripen.
Following the discussion on these issues, the defence ministry is expected to open the commercial bids of the two contenders, who have extended their offers till December.
‘Once those issued are cleared, hopefully by the middle of the month (October), we should be in a position to open the bids,’ Browne said.
If the government fails to decide on the winner by December, the commercial bids submitted by the EADS Cassidian and Dassault will expire and hence, a decision is required by then.
The IAF wants to begin induction of the MMRCA in its fleet by 2015, by when it will start phasing out the Soviet-era MiG series of fighter jets.
However, the process is presently stuck in finalising the proposals of the two companies relating to the 50 percent offsets clause.
Under the Defence Procurement Procedure, any hardware import worth over Rs.300 crore will entail the winner of the contract to plough back a minimum of 30 percent of the deal in the Indian defence industry. The MMRCA tender, however, mandates a 50 percent offsets clause.
At a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) seminar on aerospace industry earlier Thursday, Browne said: ‘We are in final stages of this process and hopefully (will) be done by the end of the year.’
‘Offsets for this programme amount to Rs.20,000 crore plus (nearly $5 billion) and these are going to be in service for over a period of 13 years,’ he said.
Asked to compare MMRCA with the India-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), Browne said these were two different types of planes.
‘The MMRCA does not have stealth features and super cruise capability, while FGFA has all that. FGFA has a recessed armament carrier where all the missiles and weapons are located inside the aircraft, which gives it a certain amount of stealth potential,’ he added.
India is planning to induct 250 to 300 FGFAs and it will share the $11 billion development cost equally with Russia. The total cost of the FGFA fleet is likely to cross $30 billion.