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7 janvier 2012 6 07 /01 /janvier /2012 08:00

Rafale photo Sirpa Air 2011

photo Sirpa Air


Jan 6, 2012 By Asia-Pacific Staff - aviation week and space technology


New Delhi - In value terms, 2012 is poised to be India’s biggest year for aerospace contracting. The next 12 months will see a raft of large deals signed by the country’s government for aircraft virtually across the board, but especially for long-awaited defense projects.


The first month of the year is expected to bring perhaps the most anticipated decision in current contracting activity—the lowest bidder, and therefore prospective winner, of the Indian air force’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition (AW&ST Nov. 14, 2011, p. 36). Dassault and EADS Cassidian are jockeying to supply either Rafales or Typhoons, respectively, with the winner expected to provide at least 126 aircraft.


A defense ministry officer said the team scrutinizing the MMRCA bids is expected to select the competitive bid in the third week of January; and if so, the government would attempt to award the contract by March. “It would take something disastrous for 2012 not to be the year of the MMRCA,” he said.


The original request for proposals was released in 2007, and it was once expected to have been awarded by 2011. Still, by some accounts, this is the endgame of a competition that began almost a decade ago (AW&ST Feb. 7, 2011, p. 46).


Likewise, in the first days of 2012 India’s Cabinet Committee on Security was expected to approve a crucial contract for 75 basic trainer aircraft, the result of a competition in which Swiss company Pilatus was declared the winner last year. But the committee instead approved a separate contract for 450 MBDA Mica missiles for the air force’s upgraded Dassault Mirage 2000H/TH fighters. With huge pressure from the air force for an early conclusion, given the admittedly dire state of its training infrastructure, the $700 million basic trainer aircraft deal is likely to come up for final approval later this month.


By midyear, the Indian government is also expected to decide on its protracted $750 million light utility helicopter acquisition program. A choice is shortly to be made between the Eurocopter AS550C3 Fennec and Kamov Ka-226T Sergei to supply 197 helicopters (133 for the army and 64 for the air force) for high-altitude reconnaissance and surveillance.


After a disastrous abort of the deal just days ahead of an expected award to Eurocopter in November 2007, the government and army have played extra safe this time and decided to protect the contract from possible derailment again. Sources in the army’s aviation corps say the government agreed to expunge certain performance requirements, including hover out of ground effect at certain high altitudes, to allow evaluations to be completed.


Late last year, the air force chose the Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III Longbow for its 22 attack-helicopter requirement. Negotiations for a U.S. foreign military sale contract are in motion, with a contract expected this year. A parallel decision on an effort to procure 12 heavy-lift helicopters could also come through this year, though the government has not declared a winner. Candidates include the Boeing CH-47 Chinook and new- generation Mil Mi-26T2.


With final touches remaining on paperwork, the Indian government will also shortly sign a $1.2 billion contract with the Pentagon for six follow-on Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules special mission tactical transports. Delivery of the first six aircraft was completed last month when the sixth landed at Hindon Air Force Station near New Delhi.


Finally, another deal expected to emerge this year is a government contract for four additional Boeing P-8I Neptune long-range maritime reconnaissance jets to augment the eight already ordered by the Indian navy. Late last year, the Indian navy chief, Adm. Nirmal Verma, said his service required 12 more such aircraft. But he indicated that the navy had not yet decided on the aircraft type, although Boeing will probably pitch its P-8 platform for what it will see as a follow-on opportunity to double the Indian order.


Separately, a stripped-down variant of the P-8I will be offered by Boeing in response to a tender that the Indian navy is expected to float this year for 12 medium-range maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). Competitors are likely to include the Saab 2000 MPA, Dassault Falcon 900 MPA, Alenia Aeronautica ATR 72 MP and Airbus Military C295 MPA.

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